Times caption: Alan Turing, Ada Lovelace and Stephen Hawking are three of the front runners to be the face of the £50 note (BRUNO VINCENT)
A piece by Valentine Low in today’s Times, emphases ours:
Anyone who thought the England defender Harry Maguire could be the new face of the £50 note will be disappointed.
Despite an online petition demanding an image of the Leicester player riding an inflatable unicorn, the new polymer note will feature a prominent British scientist. Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of England, said at the Science Museum in London that the new note will celebrate British achievement in science.
People have been asked to use the bank’s website over the next six weeks to suggest an eminent late scientist. Mr Carney, who will make the final decision and announce it next year, asked the public to “think science” when putting forward names. [J4MB: As opposed to thinking of kittens, maybe?]
“The invention here of the steam engine, the electric motor, the telegraph, powered the first two industrial revolutions,” he said. “In medicine and biology, the discoveries of penicillin, X-rays and the double helix by British scientists afforded people healthier and longer lives.”
Only real people who have died will be considered, so “no time lords from whatever gender are eligible”, Mr Carney said. He also ruled out economists.
There are likely to be calls for the Bank to choose a woman. An early favourite among bookmakers is Ada Lovelace, the 19th-century mathematician and early computer programmer, at 4-1. However, the late Stephen Hawking was close behind at 5-1.
Others contenders include the Nobel-prize winning chemist Dorothy Hodgkin, and Rosalind Franklin, whose contribution to discovering the structure of DNA was not fully recognised until after her death. [J4MB: William Collins’s piece on Rosalind Franklin here.]
Brian Cox, the physicist and television presenter, tweeted: “I’d like to see Stephen Hawking on the £50 note. He made invaluable contributions over half a century to our understanding of cosmology, the early universe and black holes. He also inspired thousands of scientists + millions of people, me included, through his books and lectures.”
Sam Gyimah, the science minister, said: “So pleased to see the new 50 pound note will have a British scientist on it — it should be one of our inspiring women scientists and why I wrote to . . . Mark Carney, nominating Ada Lovelace, Rosalind Franklin & Dorothy Hodgkin.”
The petition for Maguire to adorn the note, which has been signed by more than 50,000 people, hoped to repeat the success of the Boaty McBoatface affair, in which a light-hearted suggestion for the name of a research vessel won the most votes in a public campaign. The ship was ultimately named RSS Sir David Attenborough.
The roll-out date for the new £50 has yet to be revealed, but as the last to be upgraded to polymer it will be the last paper note in circulation. From 2020 the paper £20 note will be replaced by a polymer version featuring the artist JMW Turner. The present £50 note features the industrial revolution pioneers Matthew Boulton and James Watt.
Mr Carney said he did not believe it will be the final £50 introduced. He also did not fear that the public would come up with an all-male list because there was a “rich heritage of female scientists here”, he said. Asked what his own preference would be, he said he was open-minded.
Among those on the advisory committee creating a shortlist for the governor are the space scientist Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock; the molecular biologist Dr Emily Grossman; the philosopher of science Professor Simon Schaffer, and the particle physicist Dr Simon Singh.
Nominations close on December 14, and Mr Carney said the announcement should be made by next summer.
Who the bookies are backing:
Ada Lovelace 4/1
Alan Turing 4/1
Frank Whittle 25/1
James Clerk Maxwell 6/1
Rosalind Franklin 6/1
Stephen Hawking 5/1
The text above is in the online edition of The Times. The substantially shorter version of the article in the print edition included this:
Mark Carney… invited the public to make suggestions via the Bank’s website.
The Bank’s nominations page is here. Among the requirements for the scientist is that (s)he must “inspire people, not divide them”. Feminists including Caroline Criado Perez will be all over this, so I’d be astonished if the chosen scientist were not female.
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