How Does the Bank of England Decide Who Features on Banknotes?

No doubt you’re well aware that our banknotes feature different people on the back and that they all have in common is that they’re famous, influential and dead! But how does the Bank of England decide who to feature on a banknote? Let’s take a look.

Go to the profile of Susan Dolan
Dec 07, 2018
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It All Started in 1970

In 1970 the Bank of England made the decision to add another famous face to our banknotes in addition to that of the ruling monarch. The person featured on the back of the note had to have made a positive contribution of some kind to UK society and also had to be famous and well-respected. So, there was no surprise when William Shakespeare was chosen as the first representative.

Today, the Bank of England endeavours to use people who have played an important role in the development of our country through innovation, leadership or their values and who represent the diverse nature of modern-day Great Britain. To this end, fictional characters are never used, and neither are people who are still alive.

2014 Heralded the Beginning of a New Process

In 2014, the Bank decided to adopt a new process to select the characters for the back of their banknotes. Now an advisory committee decides on the field to be represented before they open up nominations for appropriate individuals to the public. The first field open for nominations was ‘visual art’ the scope of which encompassed everything from painting and sculpture to filmmaking and printing.

An enthusiastic public submitted many nominations that were sent to specialised focus groups for assessment. These groups looked at everything from the nominee’s contribution to how they would be received by the public. Their history was also carefully examined before drawing up a shortlist of finalists.

The Governor of the Bank of England now has the final say over who is to be featured and, for this banknote, the popular artist JMW Turner was selected to represent the visual arts.

Would Ada Lovelace Make the Shortlist?

While many of us may not have heard of Ada Lovelace, that’s all set to change. Often called the ‘first computer programmer’, Ada was a talented mathematician and writer who worked with many influential male mathematicians and scientists of the day, despite being a woman.

Daughter of Lord Byron, Ada collaborated with Charles Babbage, known as the ‘father of computers’ on his Analytical Engine – the earliest form of general-purpose computer. Ada also had an interest in metaphysics and believed that this type of machine had the ability to go beyond mere calculations and so she set about writing the first complex algorithm that was published in 1843.

As a woman in a man’s world, her contributions were hidden until recent years. However, she’s now widely acknowledged as being at the forefront of computer development. Her work has been recognised by the United States Department of Defense who named their 1980 computer language ‘Ada’ out of respect for her innovation and work.

She’s also associated with numerous awards and prizes for computing and digital work from the British Computing Society and other groups who want to raise the profile of women in computers and stem.

An Illuminating History of Ada

The performance Ada.Ada.Ada has been instrumental in helping with diversity in the workplace and bringing Ada’s contribution to the attention of both young and older people all over the UK.

With a showstopping LED dress, the character of Ada takes us through her life, her beliefs and her achievements while giving the audience the opportunity to not only see her life in lights but to think about how a career in stem could benefit them and the wider world.

While the show has already been presented throughout venues in the UK, the tour is now making its way to libraries throughout the country and then further afield to New Zealand, Australia, Tanzania and South Africa.

Could Ada Grace a Bank of England Banknote?

We believe she would be an excellent example of an innovator and an inspiring role model for future computer scientists, especially females, and so we say a big YES.

What do you think? Could Ada grace the back of a banknote? 

Go to the profile of Susan Dolan

Susan Dolan

Google Expert, SEO Web Marketing

Susan is a search engine consultant and was the first person to crack the Google PageRank algorithm. She is also a Queen's Leaders Mentor for the Commonwealth at Cambridge University. Working with the United Nations Youth on The Peoples Hub to alleviate and break the perpetual cycle of poverty

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