Alan Turing, legendary mathematician and WWII codebreaker, honored on new 50 pound note

Turing is credited as one of the founding fathers of computing.

July 15, 2019, 11:42 AM

Mathematician and World War II codebreaker, Alan Turing, has been honored by the Bank of England as the new face of the 50 pound note.

Turing, who died at 41 in 1952, was best known for helping to defeat Nazi Germany by cracking their codes at Bletchley Park, the top-secret facility in the U.K. known as the “Home of the Codebreakers.”

Despite his tremendous contributions to computer science and his role in the war effort, Turing was later arrested and charged under a British law that criminalized homosexuality. As part of a deal to avoid prison time, Turning agreed to hormone therapy, which was in effect a form of chemical castration. He died on June 7, 1954, in what is widely considered a suicide by eating an apple poisoned with cyanide.

Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England, said that Turing was chosen to be on the 50 pound note because he was “an outstanding mathematician whose works had an enormous impact on how we live today.”

“As the father of computer science and artificial intelligence, Alan Turing’s contributions were far-ranging and path-breaking,” Carney said. “His genius lay in a unique ability to link the philosophical and the abstract with the practical and the concrete. All around us his legacy continues to build.”

Turing's exploits during World War II were the subject of the 2014 movie "The Imitation Game," starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley.

Aside from his codebreaking, Turing was known for his work inventing the "Turing Machine," an theoretical computational device that is considered one of the foundations of computer science.

In 1950, he devised a test for artificial intelligence based on whether or not people can detect if they are conversing with computer instead of a human. In order to pass, a computer must be mistaken for a human by 30 percent of judges during a series of five-minute keyboard conversations.

Turing was posthumously pardoned by Queen Elizabeth II in 2013.

He is the first openly LGBTQ figure from British history to make an appearance on a Bank of England note.

John Leech, a former lawmaker from the Liberal Democrat Party who campaigned extensively for Turing's posthumous pardon, expressed his delight on Twitter about the decision to honor Turing.

"Very emotional seeing this for the first time today -- genuinely over the moon that Turing has been chosen as the face of the £50 note. A massive acknowledgement of his mistreatment and unprecedented contribution to society."

Some of the U.K.’s most senior institutions and lawmakers celebrated the news, lamenting the tragedy Turing endured during his lifetime, while celebrating the move to honor his legacy.

GCHQ, the U.K. government’s premier intelligence and security agency, said they were delighted that Turing had been chosen.

"Turing was the father of modern computing, a pioneer in #artificialintelligence and instrumental in the breaking of Enigma @bletchleypark during #WWII#Turing50," the agency wrote.

Ed Davey, a prominent lawmaker for the Liberal Democrat Party, applauded the decision, and lamented the tragic end for the British hero.

“Right we honour Alan Turing -- a brilliant man & national hero whose mistreatment is a stain on our history. We must never again allow such injustice.”

Related Topics

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events