The Bank of England recently announced that the next £50 bank note will feature someone who made an outstanding contribution to science. The British Society for the History of Science is delighted at this recognition of the importance of the history of science, and we will be adding our voice to the debate. President Tim Boon and Vice-President Patricia Fara have picked their favourite candidates, and we want you to help us make our final decision!

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Image result for dorothy hodgkin Image result for henry grant rosalind franklin portrait
Dorothy Hodgkin (1910-94) is the only British woman to have won a Nobel prize for science. She is also the only female recipient of the Royal Society’s prestigious Copley medal, and the first woman (after Florence Nightingale) to be awarded the Order of Merit. By introducing new techniques into X-Ray crystallography – that later made possible the unravelling of DNA – she analysed the molecular structure of insulin, penicillin and Vitamin B12, three chemicals that each transformed medical care in the twentieth century.

Image: Science Museum

Rosalind Franklin (1920-1958) provided the crucial piece of evidence – X-Ray photograph 51 – that enabled the double helix structure of DNA to be deciphered; she also made foundational contributions to modern understandings of coal, graphite and viruses. Although she has become mythologised as the victim of male prejudice, she regarded herself first and foremost not as a woman, but as a scientist.

Image: Henry Grant Archive/Museum of London

Alan Turing (1912-54) studied not only the technology that makes computers work, but also their significance for human thought. During the War, he played a key role in deciphering enemy messages, but his seminal theoretical paper appeared in 1936, years before electronic computers became physically possible. In it he described an imaginary device that received instructions by reading a marked paper tape, claiming that this ‘universal machine’ could behave as if it were a human being.

Image: Manchester Evening News

An early list of eligible candidates has been released by the Bank of England, and public nominations remain open until 15th December 2018.