A new design for Britain’s highest value banknote has won acclaim not just for who it features but also a sneaky puzzle hiding in plain sight.
Yesterday the Bank of England, which despite its name sets monetary policy for the entire UK, revealed who would be emblazoned on the new style 50 pound note, worth around A$90.
It will feature a man who is widely credited with turning the Second World War in Britain’s favour but ended his life after being deemed a criminal due to his sexuality.
The note will be the last note issued in England and Wales to move over to Australian style polymer material from the current paper. UK retail banks in Scotland and Northern Ireland issue their own notes but Bank of England notes are accepted throughout the country.
The current 50 pound note that features entrepreneur Matthew Boulton and engineer James Watt was introduced in 2011.
The new note, to be introduced by the end of 2021, will feature mathematician Alan Turing who played a pioneering role in the development of early computers.
Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney speaks, during the announcement that Second World War code-breaker Alan Turing has been selected to feature on the new 50 pound notes. Picture: Peter Byrne/PA via AP.Source:AP
He was also a key figure in the battle to crack the Enigma machine code that enabled Nazi Germany to send encrypted messages across the globe during the War.
At the top secret Bletchley Park code breaking centre, north of London, he created the “Turing bombe”. This could decipher the code which enabled the Allied forces to eavesdrop on Hitler’s plans.
He was also seminal when it came to early work on artificial intelligence.
Bank of England Governor Mark Carney said Turing was “a giant on whose shoulders so many now stand.”
However, despite his essential role in the Allied victory over the Axis powers, Turing’s homosexuality meant he was on the wrong side of the law.
In 1952, he and his lover were charged with “gross indecency,” essentially a charge of being homosexual, to which he pleaded guilty.
The Enigma decoding machine is seen at Bletchley Park, home of the WWII codebreakers. A team of code breakers. Picture: AFP PHOTO/ Martyn HAYHOW.Source:News Limited
His service to the nation just years before counted for little and he was given a choice between jail time or chemical castration, to which he opted for the latter. His lover was given a conditional discharged.
His conviction led to his security clearance being provoked meaning he could no longer continue his work for the British Government.
Two years later he died, aged just 41, after eating an apple laced with cyanide. An inquest concluded he had suicided.
In 2009, he received a posthumous apology from the UK Government and the Queen gave him a Royal Pardon in 2013.
England and Wales’ so-called “Alan Turing law” retrospectively pardoned all men prosecuted for homosexuality under now defunct laws.
Aside from his image, an initial mock up of the 50 pound note features many tributes to the man now considered a hero.
There are technical drawings of the Turing bombe and table and mathematical formulae from his seminal 1936 paper “On Computable Numbers, with an application to the Entscheidungsproblem”.
There is a 1949 quote from Turing, where he told a newspaper: “This is only a foretaste of what is to come, and only the shadow of what is going to be”.
The mock up of the new note features a ribbon with binary code upon it. But what does it mean? Picture: Bank of England via AP.Source:AP
But a secret message is also to be found which users will have to crack, just like Turing did the Enigma code.
A ribbon runs across the base of the note with a series of apparently random 1s and zeros. Many people will know this is binary code.
It’s not random though. Translate the code and it reveals Turing’s birth date of 23 June 1912.
British politician John Leech, who led the campaign for a pardon, said he was “absolutely delighted” by the choice.
“I hope it will go some way to acknowledging his unprecedented contribution to society and science,” he said.
“But more importantly I hope it will serve as a stark and rightfully painful reminder of what we lost in Turing, and what we risk when we allow that kind of hateful ideology to win.”
The Bank of England will hoping it won’t face the same embarrassment the Reserve Bank did with its new $50 notes.
In May, the RBS admitted a spelling error had crept onto the bill.
A magnifying glass reveals an typo in the reverse text on the note, which features excerpts from Edith Cowan’s maiden speech to Western Australian parliament.
Oops. Picture: AAP Image/Dylan CokerSource: AAPSource:AAP
In the phrase “it is a great responsibility to be the only woman here”, the word “responsibility” is misspelt as “responsibilty” — three times.
The RBA confirmed there had been “around 400 million” $50 banknotes printed with the error, with 46 million already in circulation.
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