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Man Who Cracked 'Unbreakable' Nazi Code Honoured On New Bank Note

Alan Turing, a founding father of computer science and artificial intelligence, will feature on a Bank of England note more than 60 years after he was convicted of a crime for being gay.

Turing, celebrated for his role in cracking Nazi codes during World War II, will be the face of England and Wales' new 50-pound note, it was announced on Tuesday.

"Alan Turing was an outstanding mathematician whose work has had an enormous impact on how we live today," said Bank of England governor Mark Carney.

"As the father of computer science and artificial intelligence, as well as a war hero, Alan Turing's contributions were far-ranging and path breaking. Turing is a giant on whose shoulders so many now stand."

Turing's electro-mechanical machine -- a forerunner of modern computers -- unravelled the "unbreakable" Enigma code used by Nazi Germany. His work at Britain's wartime code-breaking centre, Bletchley Park, was credited with shortening the war by a matter of years and potentially saving thousands of lives.

The scientist's story was adapted into a film in 2014, with screen star Benedict Cumberbatch taking on The Imitation Game's lead role. The movie went on to receive eight Oscar nominations.

Following the announcement that Turing had been chosen as the face of the new bank note, Cumberbatch said he was "hugely elated" at the decision.

"I couldn't think of a more deserving candidate. He was such an extraordinary human being," the actor told the BBC.

The honouring of Turing on the note is the latest step by British authorities to rectify his past mistreatment. In 1952, Turing was convicted of gross indecency for having sex with a man. He was stripped of his job and chemically castrated with injections of female hormones.

Two years later Turing died from cyanide poisoning at age 41. It is widely believed the scientist poisoned himself.

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An artists illustration of the Alan Turing 50 GBP bank note. Image: Getty

Male homosexual sex was illegal in England and Wales until the late 1960s, up to which time gay men could face a maximum sentence of life in prison.

In 2009, then-UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown issued a public apology to Turing on behalf of the British government.

"Alan and the many thousands of other gay men who were convicted as he was convicted under homophobic laws were treated terribly,” Brown said.

"This recognition of Alan's status as one of Britain's most famous victims of homophobia is another step towards equality and long overdue."

It wasn't until 2013 that Queen Elizabeth granted a rare royal pardon for Turing's criminal conviction.

As well as an image of Turing, the new note will feature a table and mathematical formulae from a 1936 paper by Turing, an image of a pilot computer and technical drawings for the machines used to break the Enigma code.

Mark Carney presents the image of mathematician Alan Turing. Image: Reuters

The note will also include a quote by Turing about the rise of machine intelligence: "This is only a foretaste of what is to come, and only the shadow of what is going to be."

Turing was selected from a shortlist of contenders from the fields of science and mathematics, including late cosmologist Stephen Hawking.

The existing 50-pound banknote features engineer James Watt and his business partner Matthew Boulton, who developed and marketed the steam engine in the late 18th century.

The 50-pound note is the BoE's highest-value banknote and is rarely used in daily transactions. The new note is expected to enter circulation by the end of 2021.

With AAP.