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Alan Turing faces Margaret Thatcher in £50 note battle

Nick Duffy November 26, 2018
Gay codebreaker Alan Turing and former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher

L - Alan Turing. R - British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty)

Gay codebreaker Alan Turing is to face the UK’s most reviled anti-LGBT Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the race to appear on the new £50 note.

The Bank of England is running a public contest to find a figure from the world of science to appear on the face of the £50 note.

Alan Turing, the grandfather of modern computing who was persecuted for his sexuality, is among the frontrunners in the race.

But the Bank of England confirmed on Monday he will face some unlikely competition from former Conservative PM Margaret Thatcher.

WWII codebreaker Alan Turing
Alan Turing (Creative Commons)

The bank confirmed that the nomination of Thatcher, who worked as a chemist before becoming an MP, had been deemed “eligible” alongside hundreds of others.

Alan Turing will face anti-LGBT Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher

Thatcher’s nomination was proposed by Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, who tweeted: “Margaret Thatcher was a chemist, one of only two scientists to be Prime Minister and is the ideal choice.”

Under Thatcher’s leadership, the Tories passed Section 28 in 1988—banning the so-called promotion of homosexuality in schools.

The PM was also criticised—even by her own former ministers—for her handling of the AIDS crisis.

UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Thatcher (Getty)

In 2015, documents revealed that Margaret Thatcher personally tried to block all mention of anal sex in public guidance during the AIDS crisis, claiming it could harm “public morals.”

Former Health Minister Lord Fowler has also claimed that Thatcher warned him against becoming the “minister for AIDS” due to his work on the issue.

Alan Turing was persecuted for being gay

Turing, often hailed as the grandfather of modern computing, was convicted of ‘gross indecency’ in 1952 after having sex with a man, and was chemically castrated, barred from working for GCHQ, and driven to suicide.

During World War II, the mathematical genius worked at Bletchley Park to crack the German Enigma codes, which is widely believed to have led to the war ending earlier than expected.

Once a historical pariah, Turing has become one of Britain’s most celebrated LGBT+ heroes.

Computer scientist Alan Turing
Alan Turing, the grandfather of modern computing

Turing was granted a rare posthumous royal pardon by Queen Elizabeth in 2013 after a public campaign. The government later passed a law allowing men with historical gay sex convictions to apply for pardons and disregards.

The codebreaker died in 1954, five years before Thatcher was first elected as an MP.

Bank of England confirms Margaret Thatcher and Alan Turing are both ‘eligible’

The Bank of England confirms both Alan Turing and Margaret Thatcher are eligible as they published a list of all nominated figures to date.

Other eligible figures include Stephen Hawking and Ada Lovelace.

The Bank explained: “Since the Governor launched the character selection process for the £50 note on 2 November, we have received a total of 174,112 nominations.

“This is the list of eligible names that were nominated in the first week (covering the first 114,000 nominations).”

The bank added: “This is only the preliminary stage of identifying eligible names for consideration: at this first stage, a nomination has been deemed eligible simply if the character is real, deceased and has contributed to the field of science in the UK in any way.

“These names have not yet been considered by our Banknote Character Advisory Committee. We encourage the public to continue nominating characters until 14 December.

“We will release the list of all eligible nominations once the window closes.”

More: Alan Turing, Gay, LGBT, Margaret Thatcher

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