The Bank Of England has unveiled plans to issue a new £50 note that features mathematician and gay icon Alan Turing. The note is scheduled to be released on June 23, 2021 during Pride Month. Turing is the first gay man to be featured on a UK banknote.
Turing is credited with cracking intercepted codes that helped the Allies defeat the Nazis during World War II and played a crucial role in the development of early computer machines.
— Bank of England (@bankofengland) March 25, 2021
After WW II, in 1952, Turing was prosecuted and convicted for homosexual acts. As an alternative to prison, he accepted chemical castration as punishment. He died by suicide in 1954 by cynaide poisoning.
In 2013, Queen Elizabeth II granted Turing a posthumous pardon. The 2017 law that grants retrospective pardon for gay men convicted for homosexual acts is often referred to as the Alan Turing Law.
“Alan Turing provided the theoretical underpinnings for the modern computer. While best known for his work devising code-breaking machines during WWII, Turing played a pivotal role in the development of early computers first at the National Physical Laboratory and later at the University of Manchester,” Bank of England said in a statement.
“He set the foundations for work on artificial intelligence by considering the question of whether machines could think. Turing was homosexual and was posthumously pardoned by the Queen having been convicted of gross indecency for his relationship with a man. His legacy continues to have an impact on both science and society today.”
Stonewall UK welcomed the announcement. “Today, the new Alan Turing £50 note design is officially unveiled. It’s vital that we celebrate LGBT history, which is often less visible, and make sure that we represent the diversity of those who paved the way before us and made our lives possible,” the LGBTQI+ advocacy organisation said in a tweet.
Today, the new Alan Turing £50 note design is officially unveiled. It’s vital that we celebrate LGBT history, which is often less visible, and make sure that we represent the diversity of those who paved the way before us and made our lives possible. https://t.co/5d83p5aAhB
— Stonewall (@stonewalluk) March 25, 2021
Others pointed out that conversion practices that seek to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity continues to remain legal in the UK.
Alan Turing; celebrated for his pioneering computer work, shortening WWII & saving countless lives, now honoured on new £50 notes!
But condemned for his homosexuality, forced into dehumanising chemical castration & found dead from cyanide poisoning. Let’s #BanConversionTherapy pic.twitter.com/Vpwcss8rrK
— Steve Chalke (@SteveChalke) March 26, 2021
GCHQ, UK’s intelligence, security and cyber agency pointed out that Turing was the first gay man to be featured on a Bank of England banknote.
We’re proud that Alan Turing is the first gay man to feature on a @BankofEngland banknote
— GCHQ (@GCHQ) March 25, 2021
“Alan Turing’s appearance on the £50 note is a landmark moment in our history,” said Jeremy Fleming, Director GCHQ.
“Not only is it a celebration of his scientific genius which helped to shorten the war and influence the technology we still use today, it also confirms his status as one of the most iconic LGBT+ figures in the world. Turing was embraced for his brilliance and shunned for being gay. His legacy is a reminder of the value of embracing all aspects of diversity, but also the work we still need to do to become truly inclusive,” said Fleming.