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Wanted - Scientist to feature on Britain's new 50 pound note

The existing banknote features engineer James Watt and his business partner Matthew Boulton


A scientist or mathematician — but not an economist — will feature on Britain’s next 50 pound banknote, the Bank of England said on Friday as it asked the public to propose candidates.

Britain's Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, speaks during a news conference to launch the character selection process for the new £50 note at the Science Museum in London, Britain, November 2, 2018. 

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

“The United Kingdom has a rich, rich scientific heritage. It is absolutely recognised the world over,” BoE Governor Mark Carney said at the launch of the search at London’s Science Museum. “I can tell you growing up in my native Canada that British scientists were at the forefront of our curriculum, and rightly so.”

Britons have until Dec. 14 to submit suggestions to the BoE, and Carney will announce the successful design in the middle of next year based on a shortlist by BoE staff and four scientists.

Carney declined to be drawn on who he would like to see on the new banknote, which will go into circulation some time after the new 20 pound note appears in 2020, featuring landscape artist J.M.W. Turner. 

“Economists have had their day for a while. They will continue to influence how much it is worth,” he said.

Adam Smith, best known for his influential work “The Wealth of Nations” and the idea of an ‘invisible hand’ guiding free markets’, is on Britain’s current 20 pound note.

The 50 pound note is the BoE’s highest-value banknote and is rarely used in daily transactions. Britain’s government said last month that the new 50 pound note would be a plastic or ‘polymer’ design, which is more durable and harder to counterfeit than paper money.

The first British polymer banknote, featuring World War Two leader Winston Churchill on the five pound note, entered circulation in September 2016.

Carney said he expected at least one of the five or six scientists shortlisted to be a woman. The face of 19th century novelist Jane Austen graces a 10-pound note launched last year.

All people on British banknotes, other than the monarch, must no longer be living and be real rather than fictional. That meant any incarnation of the popular science fiction character Dr. Who, currently played by a female actor for the first time in the British TV show’s 55-year history, was inadmissible.

“I’m afraid Time Lords of whatever gender are not eligible,” Carney said.


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