New plastic £50 note to feature top British scientist - could it feature a North East scholar?

Bank of England Governor Mark Carney speaks during the announcement of the new polymer 50 note, at the Science Museum, Kensington, London. Picture by Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire
Bank of England Governor Mark Carney speaks during the announcement of the new polymer 50 note, at the Science Museum, Kensington, London. Picture by Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire

The new £50 note will feature a prominent British scientist, and members of the public are being asked to come up with nominations.

Bank of England Governor Mark Carney announced at the Science Museum in London this morning that the new polymer note will celebrate UK achievement in science.

People are being asked to make suggestions via the Bank's website over the next six weeks of an eminent late scientist from fields such as biology, astronomy and medical research.

Mr Carney, who will make the final decision and announce it next year, asked the public to "think science" when putting forward names.

"The invention here of the steam engine, the electric motor, the telegraph, powered the first two industrial revolutions," he said.

"In medicine and biology, the discoveries of penicillin, X-rays and the double helix by British scientists afforded people healthier and longer lives."

Sunderland's Joseph Swan, a pioneer of the light bulb; inventor and industrialist Lord Armstrong; and mathematician Ada Lovelace, who helped pave the way for the development computer are among those with North East links who are eligible to feature.

Peter Higgs, the theoretical physicist who lends his name to the Higgs boson particle, isn't eligible as only those no longer living can be nominated.

"Father of the Railways" George Stephenson may be ruled out due to already featuring on a previous £5 note.

The roll-out date is yet to be revealed but it will see the last of the paper notes removed from circulation.

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.

That issue was introduced in 2011, but there were concerns about the notes being used for money laundering and tax evasion.

The Bank said nominations must be of someone who is dead - no-one living can feature on a note - and a real person.

This will prevent another "Boaty McBoatface" scenario where the fictional name for a research vessel attracted the most votes in a public campaign.

Mr Carney said: "So, I'm afraid, no Time Lords from whatever gender are eligible."

He said he does not believe it will be the final £50 introduced, nor does he fear the public will come up with an all-male list because there is a "rich heritage of female scientists here".

He did, however, dismiss fellow finance experts, saying: "I have ruled out economists."

When asked what his preference would be, he said he remains "open-minded".

Among those on the advisory committee creating a shortlist for the governor are scientists Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock, Dr Emily Grossman, Professor Simon Schaffer and Dr Simon Singh.

Nominations close on December 14, and Mr Carney said the announcement should be made by next summer.