Nominations are now open for suggestions on who should be the new face of the £50 note. The public may suggest candidates on the Bank of England’s website, from which a shortlist will be established by a committee of experts. Bank governor Mark Carney will have the final decision.
Initial favourites were British Prime Minister Clement Atlee, widely seen as the architect of the welfare state, and Mary Seacole, a British-Jamaican business woman and nurse who set up medical stations during the Crimean War. However, Mr Carney announced last week that the honour will go to a scientist.
Suitable candidates must have worked in the sciences, engineering or mathematics. According to the Bank of England rules, no living figure is eligible to appear on banknotes other than the reigning monarch.
Speaking at London’s Science Museum, Mr Carney said that, “there is a wealth of individuals whose work has shaped how we think about the world and who continue to inspire people today,” adding that, “our banknotes are an opportunity to celebrate the diversity of UK society and highlight the contributions of its greatest citizens.”
Following the news, physicist Stephen Hawking has emerged as favourite, available at 4/9 at SkyBet and 7/4 at William Hill. Among other likely candidates, SkyBet has computer scientist Alan Turing and chemist and Nobel laureate Dorothy Hodgkin joint second favourites at 5/1, with Ada Lovelace, another computer science pioneer, at 7/1. William Hill has Lovelace and Hodgkin joint second at 3/1 with Turing at 5/1.
For all the excitement over the new banknote, some have questioned if it is needed in today’s economy. Former chief executive of Standard Chartered Peter Sands famously described it as the “currency of corrupt elites, of crime of all sorts and of tax evasion.“