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New 50-pound British Banknote Honors Computer Pioneer Alan Turing


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A sample ("specimen") of the Turing side of the new banknote.

The Bank of England this week will release a new 50-pound banknote bearing an image of computer pioneer Alan Turing.

Credit: Bank of England

On Wednesday 23 June, the Bank of England releases a new polymer 50 pound banknote featuring mathematician, computer pioneer and codebreaker Alan Turing (1912-1954). The banknote contains lots of geeky features from Turing's pioneering work in mathematics, computer science, code breaking, and even mathematical biology. Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica (CWI) researchers and professors Lynda Hardman and Jurgen Vinju comment on the meaning of Turing's work for present day computer science and society.

In 2019, Alan Turing was selected from a shortlist of British scientists to be featured on the new banknote. The release date 23 June was chosen because it is Turing's birthday. CWI researcher professor Jurgen Vinju is delighted with the Alan Turing-banknote: "It emphasizes the fact that information technology in general and computers in particular are such fundamental infrastructures for the modern society. The honour is due to Turing who gave the field its theoretical foundation and the corresponding motivation to make digital computers a reality."

Turing's work is still highly relevant, says Vinju. "I just finished writing an academic paper in which I refer to the Turing machine from 1936. In the paper I designed a new programming language. I was looking for the limits to calculate certain numbers, and the limits are defined by the Turing machine."

From Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica (Netherlands)
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