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Margaret Thatcher and Stephen Hawking shortlisted to feature on new £50 note

Former Conservative prime minister put forward amid controversy over her scientific credentials

Adam Forrest
Tuesday 25 December 2018 23:57 GMT
Bank of England ask you to 'think science' ahead of new £50 note release

Professor Stephen Hawking and Margaret Thatcher have been named on a shortlist of British figures who could feature on the new £50 note.

Bank of England governor Mark Carney announced earlier this year that the new polymer note would celebrate British achievement in science.

The Bank said only people making a contribution to scientific fields would be deemed eligible, but the former Conservative prime minister has been included on the latest list.

The rightwing blogging site Guido Fawkes launched an online petition for the former Conservative prime minister to become the new face of the £50 note in October.

Although Baroness Thatcher – who got a degree in chemistry from Oxford and briefly worked as a research chemist for food company J Lyons – was first nominated before the science restriction was announced, she has been put forward for the final shortlist.

A spokesperson for the Bank said: “She had a degree in chemistry, [and] went on to work as a research chemist – famously working on the research team which helped invent soft scoop ice cream.”

While Baroness Thatcher did work on emulsifiers in ice cream, among other projects, the frozen dessert was actually invented in America, more than a decade before J Lyons and Co partnered with the US firm Mister Softee to introduce it to Britain.

The Bank said nearly 230,000 nominations were made in the six-week nomination process which ran until 14 December, with the list now whittled down to 992 eligible names.

Other figures put forward include Ada Lovelace, Alan Turing, Rosalind Franklin and Dorothy Hodgkin, as well as Magnus Pyke and Marie Stopes.

The Banknote Character Advisory Committee will go on to look at the shortlisted names and will reveal the winner in the summer of 2019.

The note will be the last upgraded to a plastic polymer version, with the £20 no longer being manufactured out of paper from 2020 when it will be replaced by a design featuring artist JMW Turner.

The new £50 will replace the current paper note which features industrial revolution pioneers Matthew Boulton and James Watt.

Others who are on the shortlist are Alice Vickery, the first woman to qualify as a chemist and pharmacist, author and natural scientist Helen Beatrix Potter and Peter Mansfield, a pioneer of the MRI machine.

Additional reporting by Press Association

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