Mathematician, computer scientist and Nazi code-breaking hero Alan Turing could soon join Her Maj on the Bank of England’s new £10 note.
Nearly 6,000 people have signed a government e-petition calling for the computer pioneer’s mug to appear on the tenner here. The petition comes in the centenary year of Turing’s birth.
Petition creator Thomas Thurman justified the Turing pick by calling him a “national hero”. Thurman added: “His contribution to computer science, and hence to the life of the nation and the world, is incalculable. The ripple-effect of his theories on modern life continues to grow, and may never stop,” Thurman says.
If successful, Turing would oust naturalist Charles Darwin who established the theory of evolution and wrote the Origin-of-the-Species.
John Graham-Cumming, the British computer scientist whose led a successful campaign in 2009 for a government apology over Turing's "appalling" persecution, agreed Turing should be remembered as a national hero.
He told The Reg, however, Turing deserves a more permanent memorial. "It is hard to make a choice between Darwin and Turing because both had such a significant impact. Although putting Turing on the £10 would be justified by his stature, I'd prefer to see efforts being made for a permanent national statue of Turing - such as on the fourth plinth."
Thurman's petition addresses the Treasury, but it’s the Governor of the Bank of England who has the final say on who appears on British notes.
The practice of putting eminent British figures on our paper money started in 1970 and, according to the BoE’s site here: “It is usual practice to consider a number of probable candidates all of whom have been selected because of their indisputable contribution to their particular field of work and about whom there exists sufficient material on which to base a banknote design.”
The goal would be for Turing to be introduced with the rollout of a new £10, part of a new round of series F notes: the F series notes started going into circulation in 2007 with the £20 note, featuring free-market economist Adam Smith on the reverse side.
It’s the latest effort to celebrate Turing for his achievements in an industry that's become dominated by corporations from the US. Bletchley Park has this year devised a series of limited edition first day covers for stamps to celebrate the centenary of his birth and help raise some more funds for renovation.
Turing is a cause célèbre for computer fans, who cite his contributions to computer science and his pivotal role in the Second World War. Another factor is the hope that bestowing the honour will go some way towards repairing the injustice he suffered as a homosexual man in a conservative, post-war Britain.
Turing's work on mathematics produced the Turing machine, a device that led to the modern computer as we know it, while in WWII his mathematical smarts were deployed at Bletchley Park to crack German ciphers and the daunting – for the Allies – Enigma Machine used to encode top-secret military communications.
After the war, Turing was arrested and convicted for homosexuality, meaning he was no longer allowed clearance to work on secret government projects. The government last month turned down a call to posthumously pardon Turing despite a petition that drew more than 23,000 signatures and prompted the tabling of early day motion in the House of Commons. ®