Alan Turing £50

Alan Turing (1912-1954)

A war hero and a victim of prejudice

Alan Turing Blue Plaque

Alan Mathison Turing was born in 1912 in a nursing home in Maida Vale, west London close to Warwick Avenue tube station. An English Heritage blue plaque marks the place where Turing was born, it is now a hotel.

He was a brilliant mathematician and computer pioneer. Some regard him as the father of modern computing as well as Artificial Intelligence (AI). Turing was a keen runner and almost qualified for the 1948 London Olympic Games. 

During World War II he helped to crack the enigma code at Bletchley Park, north of London, which meant secret German communications could be decoded especially regarding U boats (German submarines) attacking the Atlantic convoys of merchant vessels. These vessels were protected by the Royal Navy, taking food and other goods across the north Atlantic. Cracking it shortened the war and saved many lives. Turing was awarded an OBE for his efforts.

After the war he worked at the National Physical Laboratory where he pioneered a stored-program computer before helping to develop the Manchester computers at the Victoria University of Manchester (now the University of Manchester). 

Turing was a gay man who was open about his sexuality to his friends. In 1952 was arrested and charged for having a relationship with a man, Arnold Murray. The relationship was discovered after a burglary at Alan Turing’s home, Murray was acquainted with the suspect. Turing and Murray were charged under a law passed in 1885 (Criminal Law Amendment Act) that created the offence of ‘gross indecency’ outlawing all sexual contact between men. 

The trial in March 1952 (Regina v Turing and Murray) was held at the courthouse in Knutsford, Cheshire. Turing pleaded guilty but instead of imprisonment was put on probation for 12 months and told to submit to ‘treatment’. He underwent a series of injections which amounted to chemical castration at Manchester Royal Infirmary. The chemicals made him impotent and took away his libido, he also started to grow breasts. Murray was bound over to be of good behaviour for 12 months. 

Apart from the physical changes to his body he was stripped of his security clearance which meant he was unable to engage in secret work including on the ‘Cold War’, which upset him.

Turing became very unhappy and took his own life at the age of just 41. He was found dead on 8th June 1954 by his housekeeper at his home in Wilmslow, Cheshire. Cyanide poisoning was given as the cause of death, which Turing had ingested into an apple. He was cremated at Woking crematorium in Surrey two days later, just 3 people attended his funeral. A tragic end for a genius who was a war hero. His former home in Wilmslow now has a blue plaque, this is not however an official English Heritage blue plaque. 

Turing was forgotten about until the 1990s and is now rightfully honoured and commemorated in many ways. There are now numerous plaques (including the ones mentioned above), street names and statues to honour him. In London near the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park there is the Turing Building which is on Turing Street. In Manchester there is the Alan Turing Building, a part of the University of Manchester plus a statue in Sackville Gardens near Canal Street, the heart of the ‘gay village’. 

Since 2021 the £50 note has featured Alan Turing, the first to feature someone who was LGBT+. The Bank of England received 227,299 nominations for people to be on this note. In June 2024 it was reissued with the head King Charles III on it. 

In 2009 he received an official posthumous public apology from the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown. In 2013 he received a posthumous pardon from Queen Elizabeth II on the recommendation of the Home Secretary Theresa May who was in the government of Prime Minister, David Cameron. 

In 2017 all men convicted of historic offences committed under the 1885 Act, which was repealed by the Sexual Offences Act 1967 (England and Wales), 1980 (Scotland) and 1982 (Northern Ireland) were invited to request a pardon. This was under a section of the Policing and Crime Act 2017 which became known as ‘Turing’s Law’. 

A highly acclaimed film called ‘The Imitation Game’ about the life of Alan Turing came out in 2014 which brought his story to new audiences. Benedict Cumberbatch played the part of Alan Turing.

I will end with the highly fitting wording on the memorial plaque underneath Turing’s statue in Manchester which rightly emphasises that Alan Turing was a victim of prejudice, thank goodness we have moved forward from the days in which a homophobic law forced Alan Turing to take his own life –

‘Alan Mathison Turing’


Father of Computer Science

Mathematician, Logician

Wartime Codebreaker

Victim of Prejudice

Philip Scott


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