Three scientists on shortlist to appear on new Scottish banknote

Published: January 31, 2016
A scaffolder carries a plank past a sign for RBS on a building undergoing renovation in London March 21, 2014. PHOTO: REUTERS

A scaffolder carries a plank past a sign for RBS on a building undergoing renovation in London March 21, 2014. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON: Royal Bank of Scotland has named three Scottish scientists, two men and one woman, on the shortlist of candidates to appear on its first plastic 10 pound note.

The three are physicist James Clerk Maxwell, Mary Somerville, the first female member of the Royal Astronomical Society, and civil engineer Thomas Telford, known as the “Colossus of Roads”.

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More than 400 people took part in the selection of the 128 nominees, who had to be Scottish historical figures or people who had made a major contribution to Scotland in science and innovation.

Maxwell (1831-1879), a hero of Albert Einstein, discovered the unified theory of electricity and magnetism.

Somerville (1780-1872) was a pioneer as a female scientist when women’s participation was discouraged. Her writings ultimately led to the discovery of the planet Neptune.

Telford (1757-1843) built more than 1,000 miles of roads in his lifetime and in Scotland designed harbours, tunnels and the Caledonian Canal.

People can vote for one of the three to appear on the note, which will be issued in 2017.

The decision on who to put on new banknotes can be controversial. The Bank of England was criticised in 2013 for the removal of the only female figure on its notes, social reformer Elizabeth Fry. Novelist Jane Austen was subsequently chosen to appear on new 10 pound notes.

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RBS has been issuing banknotes since 1727 and has an average of 1.5 billion pounds ($2.13 billion) of notes in circulation on a single day. Unlike England and Wales, where banknotes are issued by the Bank of England, Scotland has notes in circulation issued by local banks, guaranteed by deposits at the Bank of England.

There will also be a new Scottish five pound note issued in the second half of 2016. The design for this note is due to be unveiled this year and will feature an historical literary figure.

Archibald, Earl of Ilay, an 18th-century nobleman who was one of the founders of RBS, has been on all RBS notes since 1987.

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