Margaret Thatcher has been included on the Bank of England’s list of candidates who might be pictured on the new £50 note, which will celebrate the UK’s contribution to the field of science.
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In its public search for people to feature on the polymer note, the bank said it had received 174,112 nominations and the the former prime minister was on the list of about 800 eligible names published on Monday.
The late Baroness Thatcher spent her early career as a research chemist, including a period working for the food company J Lyons on emulsifiers for ice-creams.
A campaign was mounted by the rightwing Guido Fawkes blog to “put Maggie on the new £50” before the Bank said it was looking for someone from the field of science.
Margaret Thatcher in the late 1940s, when she worked for the food company J Lyons. Photograph: Manchester Daily Express/SSPL/Gettty
Mark Carney, the Bank’s governor, said this month that the choice for the £50 note would be limited to the UK’s contribution to science, prompting speculation that Ada Lovelace, Alan Turing or Stephen Hawking could be picked. “There is a wealth of individuals whose work has shaped how we think about the world and who continue to inspire people today,” he said.
Alongside Thatcher are some other unusual appearances on the list of names published by the Bank. The comedy actor Will Hay, who was a successful amateur astronomer when not entertaining the public with classics such as Oh! Mr Porter, is on the list, along with Roger Bannister, who died in March, the first runner to achieve the four-minute mile, who later pursued a career in medicine.
The Bank said first-stage nominees on the list had simply been deemed eligible because they were real, deceased and had contributed to UK science in some way. It said the names had yet to be considered by its banknote character advisory committee.
On Thatcher’s inclusion, a Bank spokeswoman 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.”
Questions have, however, been raised over the former prime minister’s connection to the invention. Steve Tillyer, a writer on British ice-cream history, told the New Yorker magazine after Thatcher died that soft-scoop ice cream had originated in the US about a decade before Thatcher joined J Lyons. However, the firm was at the forefront of the industry during her time; it had teamed up with US ice-cream company Mister Softee and ran franchises under that name.