Alan Turing banknote revealed in the UK

We previously saw this here:

Now there’s a concrete design, though! The notes will be distributed starting on Turing’s birthday, June 23, this year.


He was “nature’s codebreaker” too:

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And here it is:

(Comparing front and backside, we learn, the Queen only ages moderately and has apparently more reason to smile than Turing. :slight_smile: )

(For a high resolution image, see at the Bank of England here.)

The Bank of England describes the artwork as follows:

The design on the reverse of the note celebrates Alan Turing and his pioneering work with computers. It features:

  • A mathematical table and formulae from Turing’s seminal 1936 paper “On Computable Numbers, with an application to the Entscheidungsproblem” Proceedings of the London Mathematical Society. This paper is widely recognised as being foundational for computer science.
  • The Automatic Computing Engine (ACE) Pilot Machine which was developed at the National Physical Laboratory as the trial model of Turing’s pioneering ACE design. The ACE was one of the first electronic stored-program digital computers.
  • Ticker tape depicting Alan Turing’s birth date (23 June 1912) in binary code.
  • Technical drawings for the British Bombe, the machine specified by Turing and one of the primary tools used to break Enigma-enciphered messages during WWII.
  • The flower-shaped red foil patch on the back of the note is based on the image of a sunflower head linked to Turing’s morphogenetic (study of patterns in nature) work in later life.
  • A series of background images, depicting technical drawings from The ACE Progress Report.

And about the quote:

“This is only a foretaste of what is to come and only the shadow of what is going to be” is a quote from Alan Turing, given in an interview to The Times newspaper on 11 June 1949.

So it’s about much more than just code breaking!


Looks like the quotation relates to computers competing on equal terms with human intellect:
Text and image from this page:

This is only a foretaste of what is to come, and only the shadow of what is going to be. We have to have some experience with the machine before we really know its capabilities. It may take years before we settle down to the new possibilities, but I do not see why it should not enter any of the fields normally covered by the human intellect and eventually compete on equal terms.


The patterned foil in the transparent section reminds me of integrated circuits:
(These patterns do seem to be chosen to reflect the theme of each note: Westminster’s tower, Winchester cathedral, Margate lighthouse. Architecture of the other sort.)

I think I can say I’ve never used a £50 note and quite possibly have never seen one.


Still architecture, though.

The tribute is quite extensive. The only thing, I’m missing, is a hint at the Manchester computer manual, which, while not expressed in code but just a social regulation, might be regarded as the first operating system. (There, we find for the first time described distinct rings of access and permissions associated with tasks. Much unlike the EDSAC was operated, as an example to the contrary.)

That is, losing silver bars in the woods may be yet another story, quite appropriate for a bank note. :wink:

Scientists are using Alan Turing’s theory about patterns to grasp a better understanding of nature’s hidden design; from tracking migrating birds, to conserving whale sharks across the world.

Loosely related (not exacly a reconstruction), but sure throws a spot light at the complexity of the first decoding of Enigma messages.

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I think this is the first bank note I ever wanted to get just to display. Alan Turing is interesting because he sits on that interesting crossroads of being a computer pioneer and also being an icon for equality.

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The Newton £5 wasn’t too bad, either.

And probably an order of magnitude more affordable. :wink: