Chemistry and Physics

Who I think is worthy to be on the new £50 note…

Scientists who deserve to be on the new £50 note.

The Bank of England announced that they are redesigning the £50 note, and have asked the British public for which scientist they think should take pride of place on the new print. Here’s who I think is worthy!

In the past few years our notes have changed design in more ways than one. The £5 note, for example, was changed to be printed on a tougher polymer in 2016, and featured the Queen and Winston Churchill, replacing prisoner reformer Elizabeth Fry who had been on the note since 2002. The £10 note, the only other note to currently be polymer, features the Queen and author Jane Austen as of 2017, who replaced Charles Darwin. The £20 note is due for phasing out in 2020, and will feature portraitist J. M. W Turner.

Meanwhile, the current £50 note has existed since 2011, and features the Queen with scientist James Watt and industrialist Matthew Boulton on the reverse. Mark Carney, the Bank of England’s Governor, stated thatthe new £50 will celebrate the UK’s contribution to science”, and nominations can be made until December 14th.

“opportunity to celebrate someone who has contributed a great deal to our lives”

With the news of this redesign, and for the highest denomination currently in public circulation, it seems that there is an opportunity to celebrate someone who has contributed a great deal to our lives. Here are my two suggestions.

Alan Turing

Turing’s story was made famous in 2014’s The Imitation Game, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Kiera Knightley. Turing (1912-1954) was an English computer scientist, logician, mathematician, and cryptanalyst, among other occupations. During World War Two, he worked with the British government at Bletchley Park in the Government Code and Cypher School (GC & CS) to decipher the code of the Enigma machine, a cypher developed in Germany in 1918 and used by the Nazis to send coded information. Turing’s role was crucial in allowing the Allies to win the War. It is thought that thanks to the work of Turing and his team, the war was shortened by two years, saving over 14 million lives.

” Turing’s role was crucial in allowing the Allies to win the War”

In 1952 Turing was prosecuted for homosexual acts, and two years later died aged just 41 as a result of his consequential chemical castration treatment. He was only pardoned in 2013. He deserves to be on the £50 note for his contributions to the development of modern-day computers and artificial intelligence—just some of his achievements to go unrecognised until after his death—and as an early LGBT+ figure.


Elizabeth Garrett Anderson

Garrett (1836-1917) was an English suffragist and physician, and the first woman in British history to qualify as a physician and surgeon. She also co-founded the first hospital to be staffed by women, was the first dean of the British Medical School, the first woman to be elected to a school board, and the first female mayor and magistrate in Britain. Garrett was educated from a young age, but complained that there was a lack of teaching in science and mathematics at her girls’ boarding school.

“ Garrett… co-founded the first hospital to be staffed by women”

After learning of Elizabeth Blackwell, the first female doctor in the United States, she joined the Society for Promoting the Employment of Women, where she worked with her younger sister Millicent and early feminist Emily Davies to give girls access to the medical profession, university education, and the ability to vote. Garrett earned her qualifications in private, after being rejected from a number of institutions, and went on to gain her license in 1865, scoring highest out of all the candidates. Her contributions to science, particularly the health of women, makes her deserving of a place on the new £50 note, a position which would give her achievements the recognition they deserve.

There are countless others who should be considered, from Rosalind Franklin (arguably the rightful discoverer of the structure of DNA) to the late Stephen Hawking (theoretical physicist and author) and it will be interesting to see who is nominated to replace Watt and Boulton. Whoever it is, they will be celebrated for the contributions to science and to the world, and are worthy of the position.

Esme Johnson

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