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Alan Turing Features On £50 Bank Note

New £50 Bank of England Note

Andrew Bailey, the governor of the Bank of England, said: “He was a leading mathematician, developmental biologist, and a pioneer in the field of computer science.

It is 10 years since the steam engine pioneers James Watt and Matthew Boulton appear on the current £50 note. The new bank note will be issued on 23rd of June this year.

We reported a while ago that Mark Carney Governor, ex governor of the Bank of England announced that Alan Turing would be the subject of the reverse side of the new £50 bank note.

This is a great result for the memory of Alan Turing and also for the world of computing.

Alan Turing who is famous for many things including his brilliant ideas that led to the modern era of computing and also his suicide after being forced to taking a drugs to suppress his homosexual tendencies which were illegal at the time. Although most people remember for his work at Bletchley Park on decrypting the German Enigma machine.

Born in 1912 his education was not necessarily exceptional until he attended Sherbourne School and his maths and science abilities began to unleashed.

From 1931 until 1934 he went to Cambridge University and his dissertation earned him a Fellowship, he was 24 years old.

In 1936, Turing presented a paper, “On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungs problem,” in which he presented the notion of a universal machine (the “Turing machine”) capable of computing anything that is computable: It is considered the foundation to the modern computer era.

After obtaining his Phd at Princeton in the United States he returned to Cambridge and eventually ended up working for the Government on a part time basis working on cryptography.

His war time efforts have been chronicled and many documentaries and films been made about the subject of Enigma. The Bombe is one of the best known of these efforts and well worth a visit to Bletchley to see it run. He also wrote several other papers while there on code breaking. These were so good that GCHQ only finally released the papers in 2012 as the principles were still being used then. That is nearly 60 years after he died.

Computing has evolved over the time since he died, but I think Alan would still recognise the underlying technology that has driven the human race to the point where we all carry a computer in our pockets and many homes can have a dozen or more devices within it that are computer driven.

I hope that the new £50 note will urge people to visit Bletchley Park near Milton Keynes and see how his idea’s saved millions of lives and possibly changed the outcome of the war.

While you are there, why not visit The National Computing Museum, it is situated on the same site.

Bletchley Park nearly became a housing estate until Tony Sale a good friend of the Institution led the campaign to save it for the nation. Nobody even the local council knew it had been there, 40 years after the war, it was that secret.

I heard once, that on the day Bletchley Park closed after the war, some 10,000 people left by the main gate. They had lived and been living with the local people for the duration and no one new!

Alan Turing may have committed suicide rather the continue to take the drugs he was forced to take, however it was a different time and times and attitudes have changed. He was pardoned in 2013.

Personally I think he is one of those greats in computing that along with the likes of Joseph Jacquard, Charles Babbage, Tim Berners Lee, Grace Hopper to name but a few has given us the world of computing we live in today.

John Ellis FIAP (Cmpn)

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