Who do school students want to see on the new £50 Note?

£50 Note Zone LogoAccording to the I’m a Scientist poll in the £50 Note Zone, the scientist who should appear on the new £50 Note is:

Stephen Hawking

Championed by Lydia James and Ryan Cutter, Stephen Hawking won the most votes in our poll; students and members of the public believe he should be the scientist featured on the new £50 Note.



The £50 Note Zone was set up following the announcement from the Bank of England that the new £50 note will feature a prominent (deceased) British scientist, and that they would open a public consultation to help decide which scientist to feature.

In the £50 Note Zone, young people and members of the public across the UK were given a place to discover people from STEM history. They spent time reading profiles, asked questions, joined in discussions, and ultimately, made their decision on who they think deserves to appear on the new £50 note.

We invited past participants of I’m a Scientist and I’m an Engineer to nominate and champion their science heroes, answering questions about their nominees, and taking part in weekly live chats. 19 faces from British STEM history were nominated, and participants created profile pages for their nominees.


Who took part?

28 scientists and engineers who had previously taken part in the I’m a Scientist and I’m an Engineer UK events nominated their own heroes from STEM history, and were invited to take part. Champions who nominated the same person were invited to take part in small teams; sharing questions and live chats between them.

Between 1 November and 31 December 2018, the £50 Note Zone received over 11,000 page views from 1,335 users (89% of whom from the UK). Visitors to the Zone came from across the UK.

Web analytics data: (1 November – 31 December 2018)   User registrations:
Page views 11,317   Users who created an account in the Zone 560
Total users 1,335   Student users 546
Users from the UK 1,189   Students who came from the main November 2018 I’m a Scientist event 471
England 995   Students from new registrations (teachers signed up specifically to take part in the £50 Note Zone) 75
Scotland 144   Public users from social media registration 14
Northern Ireland 40   % of users who actively engaged (through asking a question, taking part in a live chat, posting a comment, or casting a vote) 42%
Wales 17


Map of UK schools which took part in the £50 Note Zone. (Blue markers show schools where students actively engaged through asking a question, taking part in a live chat, posting a comment, or casting a vote.) [Image: Google]

Map of UK schools which took part in the £50 Note Zone. (Blue markers show schools where students actively engaged through asking a question, taking part in a live chat, posting a comment, or casting a vote.) [Image: Google]

560 school students and members of the public created accounts in the £50 Note Zone, of which, 234 (42%) actively engaged through voting, asking a question, taking part in a live chat, or posting a comment.

Students from 71 schools across the UK registered accounts in the Zone where they were able to read profiles, and existing answers on the site. Students from 42 of these schools actively engaged with the Zone.

Additionally, students from 3 international schools took part and engaged with the Zone, giving school students in Peru, Spain, and the USA the opportunity to learn about British scientists from history.


What happened?

35 questions were posted in ASK, receiving 137 answers from the scientist and engineer champions.

4 live chats took place, each on a Wednesday evening, chats were promoted to teachers taking part in the standard I’m a Scientist event, people who had registered in the Zone, as well as through our Twitter channels. There were 1,277 lines of live chat.

Students and members of the public taking part in the Zone were invited to vote for the scientist they thought should appear on the new £50 note. Users were also encouraged to fill in the Bank of England’s official nomination form.


Who should be on the new £50 Note?

Stephen Hawking (Courtesy NASA StarChild) Image: Wikimedia

Stephen Hawking (Courtesy NASA StarChild) [Image: Wikimedia]

231 votes were cast from school students and members of the public, with an significant majority cast for one scientist: Stephen Hawking, who received 60% of the votes.

The two runners up in our poll were Alan Turing, and Rosalind Franklin.

When asked why Hawking should be on the £50 note, the team discussed the reach of Hawking’s work, as well as his lasting impacts on science, and the scientific community:

My work is far reaching, both literally and metaphorically!

I started my work on the theory of black holes in the universe. This work wasn’t only pioneering, it told us that if General Relativity is true, the universe has a beginning and an ending! …

My book, A Brief History of Time … has sold over 10 million copies and has been translated to over 35 languages. I have helped people around the world learn about science and many of them have been inspired to become scientists themselves!

With my impact to science still resonating in the ears of young scientists around the world, my contribution to science is ongoing.

Visitors to the £50 Note Zone were interested to know about the impacts Hawking and his work has had on people’s lives; importantly, the team highlighted Hawking’s work on communicating science, and inspiring young people into STEM:

So many people know about black holes, space time, and care about physics because of his books. A whole generation of scientists were created because of him. What’s more, Stephen is one of the few candidates who was alive to see the impact he had on the world!

Read more about what was said about Stephen Hawking and why he should appear on the new £50 note here; as well as what was said about the two runners up in our poll: Alan Turing, and Rosalind Franklin.

Posted on February 7, 2019 by modjosh in Evaluation. 2s Comments.

2 Responses to Who do school students want to see on the new £50 Note?

  1. it would be helpful to publish the number of votes for ALL candidates.
    This is known as OPEN SCIENCE and is something that should be supported in every possible way.
    Summary reasons for other candidates are also important
    We need to now not only hoiw puplis vote, but why
    As a contributing sicnetis I’m very disappointed by this report

    • ModShane says:

      Hi Diana,

      I’m sorry you’re disappointed by the report. The £50 note zone was something we put together quickly to give students and other interested members of the public a chance to explore options for the new note.

      We don’t publish the individual votes. The poll as you can imagine isn’t scientific, it’s a record of who a self-selecting portion of the our audience voted. From the report you can tell that Stephen Hawking received 60% which doesn’t leave an enormous number of votes for the other 18 candidates to share around.

      You’ll hopefully be pleased to know if we had been unconventional enough to acknowledge the top four instead of top three, then we’d have seen Ada Lovelace in the list of runners up.

      You are also right that it would be good to know why they voted the way they did. But we simply don’t have the resources for such comprehensive evaluation.

      Project Director

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