New £50 note scientist nominations released

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Rosalind Franklin, Stephen Hawking and Ada Lovelace feature on the official list of more than 800 – so far

The Bank of England has released a list of scientists who have been nominated to feature on the new £50 note.

On the list are computing pioneers Alan Turing and Ada Lovelace, telephone inventor Alexander Graham Bell and astronomer Patrick Moore.

The Bank received 174,112 nominations, of which 114,000 met the eligibility criteria.

To be on the list, the individual must be real, deceased and have contributed to the field of science in the UK.

The list, which includes more than 600 men and almost 200 women, includes black holes expert Stephen Hawking, penicillin discoverer Alexander Fleming, father of modern epidemiology John Snow, naturalist and zookeeper Gerald Durrell, fossil pioneer Mary Anning, British-Jamaican business woman and nursing pioneer Mary Seacole and Margaret Thatcher, who was a scientist before becoming British Prime Minister.


Bookmakers William Hill have Stephen Hawking as the current favourite, with odds of 7/4, followed by Nobel-prize winning chemist Dorothy Hodgkin 4/1.

Ada Lovelace, Alan Turing, Alexander Fleming and electromagnetic pioneer Michael Faraday have odds of 5/1 and Rosalind Franklin, who made important contributions to the understanding of DNA, is at 6/1.

Further names will be considered up until nominations close on 14 December.

After that the decision will be considered by the Bank’s Banknote Character Advisory Committee.

The committee which draws up the shortlist will include space scientist Maggie Aderin-Pocock, author and genetics expert Emily Grossman, editor of the British Journal for the History of Science Simon Schaffer, and theoretical and particle physicist Simon Singh.

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Bank of England

Nominations can include anyone who worked in any field of science including astronomy, biology, bio-technology, chemistry, engineering, mathematics, medical research, physics, technology or zoology.

Criminal use

There are currently 330 million £50 notes in circulation, with a combined value of £16.5bn, the Bank said.

A year ago there were doubts that the £50 note would continue to exist at all.

Fears that the largest denomination note was widely used by criminals and rarely for ordinary purchases prompted a government-led discussion on whether to abolish it.

The £50 note was described by Peter Sands, former chief executive of Standard Chartered bank, as the “currency of corrupt elites, of crime of all sorts and of tax evasion”.

Nevertheless, in October, ministers announced plans for a new version of the note, to be printed in the UK, which they said would be plastic – so, more durable, secure and harder to forge.

Steam engine pioneers James Watt and Matthew Boulton appear on the current £50, issued in 2011.