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Gay Mathematician Alan Turning’s Face To Feature On Britain’s New £50 Banknote

By Deepannita Das

It was visionary English mathematician Alan Turing who broke the Nazi Enigma code during the second world war, but sadly on March 31, 1952, he was put on a trial for his homosexual acts with a 19-year-old man that led to chemical castration. Turing chose to go through humiliating hormone therapy in post-war Britain to avoid the custodial sentence. Unable to bear this appaling treatment, he committed suicide two years later on June 7, 1954.

Keeping aside this painful event, it is great news for people belonging to the LGBT community that Alan Turing's face will be featured on Britain's new £50 Banknote by the end of 2021, announced the Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney on Monday, 15th July. This historic decision will also make him the first person to appear on the new polymer banknote despite being convicted of homosexuality, or being openly gay since the oppressing law was abolished.

Father of Computer Science and artificial intelligence, this war hero's far-ranging and path-breaking "work has had an enormous impact on how we live today," Carney said while making the announcement at the Science and Industry Museum in Manchester, mentioned a Guardian report. "Turing is a giant on whose shoulders so many now stand," he added.

Turing not only played a significant role in the development of early computers first at the National Physical Laboratory and later at the University of Manchester, but his work is estimated to have shortened the world war II by four years and is believed to have saved up to 21 million lives back then.

Further, when it comes to artificial intelligence, it was Turing who laid the foundation to work on this area and consider the idea of whether machines could think.

The imagery which will depict Turing and his extraordinary work will be used in the reverse of the polymer £50 note. Apart from that, it will also feature a quote from him, which was given in an interview to the Times newspaper on June 11, 1949:

'This is only a foretaste of what is to come, and only the shadow of what is going to be.'

Sexual relationships between men over the age of 21 were decriminalized in England and Wales in 1967, 1980 in Scotland and 1982 in Northern Ireland.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown apologized for Turing's inhuman and painful treatment by the justice system in the 1950s, following which thousands of people came forward to sign the petition in 2009.

Ex-MP of Manchester and gay rights campaigner John Leech led almost a decade-long campaign to pardon Alan Turing. Following these events, 4 years later, Queen Elizabeth II granted Turing a pardon on December 24, 2013.

While Turing will grace the new £50 note, the list of candidates included 989 eligible names of people who are real, deceased and have contributed to science in the UK. It included eminent names like Stephen Hawking, Mary Anning, Rosalind Franklin, Paul Dirac, William Herschel and Caroline Herschel, Ada Lovelace, Dorothy Hodgkin, and Charles Babbage, James Clerk Maxwell, Srinivasa Ramanujan, Frederick Sanger, and Ernest Rutherford.

Read more about: lgbtq
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