• Question: what discovery has made you be nominated for the £50 note ? why are you the scientist that deserves to be on the £50 note

    Asked by Rebekahxxx<3 to Thomas Telford, Stephen Hawking, Rosalind Franklin, Peter Medawar, Nicholas Shackleton, Mary Somerville, Mary Anning, John Snow, G. H. Hardy, Sir Geoffrey de Havilland, Frederick Sanger, Francis Crick, Elizabeth GarrettAnderson, Edwards and Steptoe, Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin, Beatrice Shilling, Aneurin Bevan, Alan Turing, Ada Lovelace on 13 Nov 2018.
    • Photo: Rosalind Franklin

      Rosalind Franklin answered on 13 Nov 2018:


      In the early 1950s, I was working on X-ray crystallography at King’s College London. With my PhD student, I took the image of DNA that led Francis Crick and James Watson to develop a successful model of the double helix structure of DNA. Without my image (which was shown to them without my knowledge), they almost certainly would not have achieved this, and the discovery of the structure of DNA might well have been made by an American team.

      Crick and Watson, together with my former colleague Maurice Wilkins, won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1962. I contend that I, rather than Maurice, would have been the third recipient (you can’t split the Nobel more than three ways) if I hadn’t died from cancer in 1958, aged only 37.

      Deciphering the structure of DNA has led to a revolution in biology, genetics and our understanding of evolution, as well as technologies like DNA fingerprinting to identify criminals and victims of crime. I think I should be on the £50 note because my work ensured that credit for this discovery went to work done in a UK lab (I do admit that Jim Watson is American). Also, I represent a role model for women scientists: by the time of my death I was leading a research team – Aaron Klug, who was a member of my team in 1958, went on to win the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1982 – and I would surely have gone on to be a leader in the field of molecular biology. We need more women in science, and having a woman scientist on the £50 note would help send the message that women can indeed be world-leading scientists.

    • Photo: Dorothy Hodgkin

      Dorothy Hodgkin answered on 13 Nov 2018:


      I discovered the 3D structure of the protein insulin. Knowledge of this structure allows a greater understanding of diabetes and better treatment for patients.

      But actually I’d already won the Nobel prize a few years before discovering the structure of insulin and won it for developing the techniques that allowed me to discover the structure of insulin. This work has since been used and further developed by huge numbers of scientists and allowed them to discover so much more.

      As well as being a pioneering scientist that helped to drive advances that have made a huge difference to drug discovery and modern medicine, I was also a political activist and supported scientists all over the world, so I believe I deserve to be on the £50 note for all of my wide-ranging work. And of course, just as Rosalind says, it’s important to celebrate women in science.

    • Photo: Mary Anning

      Mary Anning answered on 13 Nov 2018:


      An ichthyosaur!

      In popular stories, I am supposed to have made the first discovery of a complete fossil ichthyosaur, which we now know as one of the great swimming reptiles from a period of time about 200 million years ago. Of course, it was a bit more complicated than this. It was 1811, and I was twelve years old, when my brother found a fossilised skull in the soft rocks of the cliffs near Lyme Regis. At that stage we didn’t know what it was, but I spent the next few weeks slowly uncovering the rest of the skeleton – and what emerged was indeed the first complete example of a creature that was later described and named as ‘ichthyosaurus’ by geologists.

      After my father died, collecting, preserving and mounting fossils became my living – and over many years I discovered some of the most complete and best examples of both ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs. As a working-class woman, from a non-conformist background my discoveries were never ascribed to me in scientific papers, or even in the museum displays; but my expertise was well known to the gentlemen scientists of the time; and even better known today.

    • Photo: Stephen Hawking

      Stephen Hawking answered on 13 Nov 2018:


      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!

      I spent a lot of my early career developing the mathematics of gravitational radiation from Black holes, this work is used in the foundations when discovering colliding Black holes and neutron stars that are detected in LIGO and VIRGO today.

      Later I discovered what would be considered my most important discovery. I found out that black holes aren’t entirely black! Due to weird world of quantum mechanics, black holes radiate very slowly. This is called Hawking radiation (after myself)! Not only was this discovery important for cosmology and astrophysics, it also made a pivotal step in getting general relativity and quantum physics to work together. It also gave a massive surge for research into quantum gravity!

      One of my biggest contributions was to help people understand this complex science without much maths at all! My book, a brief history in time, being my most popular and well known piece of work. It 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.

      Being on the £50 note will honour my impact to the scientific community and be an homage to the inspiration I gave to people all around the world

    • Photo: Peter Medawar

      Peter Medawar answered on 13 Nov 2018:


      I discovered how our immune systems can tell whether something inside the body is ‘self’ (made of you) or ‘foreign’, like infecting bacteria or viruses. That way your body knows what to fight off and what to protect. But our immune systems also detect human cells from other people as foreign, which can cause problems for people who need transplants. I was one of the first people to show how bodies recognise what is foreign and what is safe and so my discovery made it possible for people to have transplants. This means that transplants are now usually successful, because the immune system of the person receiving the transplant doesn’t wrongly attack the transplant as being ‘foreign’. Many thousands of people every year survive because they successfully receive a transplant and since my discovery, hundreds of thousands of people’s lives have been saved thanks to my work. I also think that I should be on the £50 because of my work in helping people understand about science and research, which inspired many others to become doctors and scientists.

    • Photo: Mary Somerville

      Mary Somerville answered on 13 Nov 2018:


      Using mathematics, I realised that Uranus had a wobble in it’s orbit and used that to work out where Neptune would be (there were some others that did this too).
      I was also (with Caroline Herschel) one of the first women allowed to be members of the Royal Society.

      We’d not have the term scientist if it wasn’t for me. Previously, the term had always been “man of science”, but my writings and linking together of different types of science meant that a new term had to be found.

    • Photo: Aneurin Bevan

      Aneurin Bevan answered on 14 Nov 2018:


      I’m not a scientist and haven’t discovered anything however I was instrumental in setting up the NHS which is a very scientific field of work. Although other scientist have made very important discoveries and scientific breakthroughs I feel that the NHS uses ALL this knowledge and applies it every working day to patients. Lets not forget that we all use the NHS, as small newborn babies we use the maternity services, midwives and health visitors not to mention the tests that are done to make sure that we don’t have any conditions that would only be diagnosed otherwise when symptoms start to show. Many people have conditions that mean they constantly need monitoring by a GP, nurse or health practitioner like diabetes or asthma. Some of us unfortunately might need to call an abulance and find ourselves in A&E. Through our younger years many of us are vaccinated and as we get older many more are screened for certain illnesses. The NHS is still there for us when we die.

      So you see although I’m not a scientist I helped to create one of the most scientific services we have and made it possible for the discoveries found years before to be applied nowadays.

    • Photo: John Snow

      John Snow answered on 14 Nov 2018:


      In 1854 there was a deadly cholera outbreak in London. At the time, we didn’t know what germs were and many people thought that diseases like cholera were spread by bad smells. As an experienced physician and researcher, I wasn’t convinced by this idea. I spoke to those that had caught cholera in the hopes of identifying things that they had in common with one another and made a map of where the illness had struck. My investigations showed that the ill people collected their drinking water from the same public well and that the brewery workers (who drank beer instead of water all day) were completely fine. Putting this information together I informed the local authorities that the cholera was being spread by water in the well and they decided to remove the handle from the pump. Soon after that, the cholera stopped spreading and many victims recovered.

      This way of making connections between diseases and environmental exposures is called epidemiology and I was one of the first to use it. Since my day, our understanding of what causes different diseases has grown enormously and epidemiology has been a huge contributor to that. Without it, doctors would not know how to treat illnesses effectively and many lives would be lost.

    • Photo: Ada Lovelace

      Ada Lovelace answered on 14 Nov 2018:


      Computer programmming is my greatest contribution, although it had to be redicovered by others after nearly 200 years.
      We all deserve to be in £50, but I am special because I was so far ahead of my time

    • Photo: Godfrey Harold Hardy

      Godfrey Harold Hardy answered on 18 Nov 2018:


      To be honest, I’m having second thoughts about this – I am incredibly shy and would have been mortified at the idea of the whole country looking at my face (albeit not that often – how many £50 notes do you see floating about these days…).
      I’m a mathematician, and I always made a point about studying maths not because it’s useful, but because it’s beautiful! Still, my findings were used in branches of biology (like genetics), and in physics (Einstein’s work builds on mine). I showed the world that it’s ok to study something just because it’s amazing, pretty and logical.

    • Photo: Francis Crick

      Francis Crick answered on 19 Nov 2018:


      My discovery of the structure of DNA by research done by myself and James Watson along with Rosalind Franklin’s research. This has helped pave the way for a great increase in knowledge of how DNA works and the importance of its structure. It has helped with working out how DNA is involved in causing diseases and helped in the diagnosis and figuring out potential cures or further research into cures. I feel I should be on the £50 note as without this research and hard work our knowledge of DNA could be so much further behind where it is today and we may not have been able to cure as much diseases. However we still have a long way to go and research is finding more and more interesting things each day so we are all worthy winners of the £50 note.

    • Photo: Beatrice Shilling

      Beatrice Shilling answered on 4 Dec 2018:


      I discovered a solution to fix the engines of failing engines during the Battle of Britain. Without me we probably wouldn’t have won World War 2.

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