Help Put a Scientist's Face on the UK's New £50 Bill!

Who do you think should be on the next £50 bill?
Who do you think should be on the next £50 bill? (Image credit: Bank of England)

Pardon me, do you have change for a Hawking?

English business owners may soon have to answer this question, or one like it — "Can you break a Lovelace for me?" — thanks to a new competition to put a U.K. scientist on the United Kingdom's next £50 bill.

Who will be the lucky scientist? It could be anyone — so long as they are dead and from the U.K. and were involved in any field of science. Those were the three main criteria offered by Bank of England Gov. Mark Carney, who announced the competition from the Science Museum in London earlier this week.

For the next six weeks, anyone (including you) can submit a nomination through a simple form on the bank's website. After that, a committee that includes four science experts will compile a short list of nominees and send them along to Carney, who will make the final call, the BBC reported. The winning scientist will appear on one side of the freshly designed £50 note, opposite Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II, of course.

With a scientific tradition dating back hundreds of years, the United Kingdom has no shortage of worthy contenders for the new pocket-sizeportrait. Will the honor go to Stephen Hawking, the recently deceased tour guide of black holes and Big Bangs? Will it be pioneering programmer Ada Lovelace, a long-overlooked face in science whose star is finally rising alongside the value of her auctioned memorabilia? Or will it be a towering name like Newton, Darwin, Faraday or McBoatface?*

Only time — and your vote — will tell.

Cabinet ministers announced in October plans to overhaul the £50 note (the highest-denomination currency in England). In addition to featuring a new science-based mug shot, the bill will be made from a plastic polymer like the recently redesigned £5, £10 and £20 notes (the latter enters circulation in 2020, according to the BBC).

The new plastic bills made headlines earlier this year for, controversially, containing traces of animal fats. The Bank of England announced no plans to change its currency's recipe for the new £50. It was science, after all, that made England's meat-money possible.

*While the eminent polar research vessel Boaty McBoatface is of English origin, it is neither deceased nor a human. Sadly, this disqualifies Boaty.

Originally published on Live Science.

Brandon Specktor

Brandon is the space/physics editor at Live Science. His writing has appeared in The Washington Post, Reader's Digest,, the Richard Dawkins Foundation website and other outlets. He holds a bachelor's degree in creative writing from the University of Arizona, with minors in journalism and media arts. He enjoys writing most about space, geoscience and the mysteries of the universe.