The Face of the New £50 Note

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Mar 21, 2018
The Bank of England is to issue a newly-designed plastic design for the £50. In an age where plastic pollution is a big issue, is the BoE showing a macabre sense of humour with its’ choice of material?

While Her Majesty remains undisturbed on one side, there are two other faces which will appear on the note.

The first is the Bank’s Chief Cashier Sarah John will feature, although there is no indication whether she will be sitting at her till selling 10p carrier bags for life.

One thing we do know is that the second of the two new faces will be a scientist. A British one at that which rules out the Irish ones still deemed to be in the running and also the controversial choices of politicians.

There are some noticeable absentees. The Doctor, for example, Dr Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker, nor sadly Mantis Toboggan. In fact, when the Bank of England opened up nominations, they received over 225,000 entries, only 989 of which were eligible for inclusion. Who knew “Blob blobebityblobbomus” wasn’t?

So, who are the scientists that the bookmakers think will be the face of the £50 note?
Three names at the top of the list are clear of the rest of the field with Stephen Hawking leading the way. His seminal work A Brief History of Time remains firmly lodged in the public eye while the decision to release his doctoral thesis caused Cambridge University’s servers to crash such was the interest from the scientific world, as well as the media.

Not far behind is Alan Turing, the subject of the Benedict Cumberbatch film The Imitation Game. We’re assuming Turing will actually be the face used rather than the English actor’s although given Cumberbatch is everywhere, it would come as no surprise for the BoE to use that ruse.

For a man whose cracking of the Enigma code was a pivotal moment in World War II, only to be subsequently jailed for homosexuality, it would be a tremendous honour, as well as raising awareness of the prejudices which are still battled today.

The first woman on the list is Ada Lovelace, an English mathematician whose chief claim to fame was working on Charles Babbage’s first computer. Essentially, it made her the world’s first computer programmer.

Some were surprised Linda Lovelace who, despite many years of outstanding research in the field of human biology, isn’t on the list being considered by the Bank of England’s team.
Three women make up the second tranche of scientists who are showing strongly in the betting. All, at one point, occupied Ada Lovelace’s place as the first female on the list but none have fallen away spectacularly. Yet.

Dorothy Hodgkin won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1964 for her work on the structure of vitamin B[SUB]12[/SUB][SUB],[/SUB] as well as insulin. Her work in the field of x-ray crystallography studies of biomolecules is considered pioneering. Her odds of winning are drifting; Hodgkin was 4/1 two or three months ago.

Another x-ray crystallographer was Rosalind Franklin, whose work on DNA, RNA, viruses, coal and graphite earned her a strong reputation in her field. Cancer claimed her at the tragically young age of 37 but her research was continued by Aaron Klug who won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1982.

Mary Seacole hailed from Kingston, Jamaica who created the ‘British Hotel’ in the Crimean War, which provided medical care for soldiers and officers injured in the battlefield. In 2004, she topped a poll organised by black heritage website Every Generation as the greatest black Briton.

To paraphrase Deniece Williams, let’s hear it for the girls.
No less deserving than the remainder, the final four nominated by the bookmakers are all some way off the leading pack. A bit more than the butcher, baker and candlestick maker, the computer (Babbage) and turbojet engine (Whittle) are among their claims to fame, as well as advancements in the field of x-ray crystallography (Lonsdale) and discovering penicillin (Fleming).

It hasn’t escaped our attention that Alexander Fleming won the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1945 with Ernst Boris Chain, whose name is surely a Bond villain in waiting.