Charles Darwin Gets Bumped from British Currency

Since 2000, Charles Darwin has graced the back of British 10-pound notes, much to the chagrin of Creationists everywhere:

But after 2017, he’ll be bumped in favor of author Jane Austen, the Bank of England recently confirmed:

Sir Mervyn King, the Bank’s former governor, had let slip to MPs that the author of Pride and Prejudice was “waiting in the wings” as a potential candidate to feature on a banknote, and his successor, Mark Carney, confirmed on Wednesday that she would feature, probably from 2017.

“Jane Austen certainly merits a place in the select group of historical figures to appear on our banknotes. Her novels have an enduring and universal appeal and she is recognised as one of the greatest writers in English literature,” the new governor said.

I don’t have any real complaint about it — Austen’s a great selection. Too bad Darwin had to get the boot for it to happen.

While I would love to see the U.S. honor native scientists on our paper money, maybe I should just be happy that we’re sticking to our former presidents and there hasn’t been a push to replace George Washington with Jesus.


About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • MargueriteF

    “…there hasn’t been a push to replace George Washington with Jesus.”

    Shhh! *looks around nervously* You’ll give evangelicals ideas!

  • Kevin_Of_Bangor

    Is there anything one cannot find on the internet?

  • gg


  • Kevin_Of_Bangor

    It will take a very long time before they disappear from circulation. I was handed a fifty dollar bill last week that was printed in the 80′s. I did a double take at first because I had not seen an old style 50 in a very long time.

  • Gideon

    It’s all about the Benjamins. Mr. Franklin was a scientist.

  • Paul (not the apostle)

    Jesus money would be a great example for our christian nation. There is no value in the bill itself……its all about faith in the value and as long as everyone has faith in the bill the system runs. Then along comes a skeptic and says “Look its just paper” and the system falls apart.

  • Rich Wilson

    The actual date it was printed isn’t on the bill. That date is the ‘series’ date, which is the first date that style was printed. The bill is almost certainly newer than that.

    Yours could be older, but the average lifespan of a $50 is 3.7 years

    Dunno the lifespan of Pound notes, but since £10 is approximately a $20, 5-10 years? Hm, I wonder why the $50 is so low…

  • Kevin_Of_Bangor

    The bill handed to me was printed in the 80′s. I looked it up when I got home.

  • Rich Wilson

    Oh, ok. Sorry for mansplaning :-)

  • Kevin_Of_Bangor

    Just answer me this. WTF is your display picture of?

  • rhodent

    I agree that there’s no real reason to complain here: Britain has a long enough history that there’s no way every deserving person can have a permanent spot on their money.

    And I do wish American money had a wider variety of people on its money. After all, with the exception of Sacagawea and Susan B. Anthony (both of whom were deliberately chosen because they wanted a woman on the dollar coin), I think every single person who has ever been on an American coin or note has held a high-level position in the federal government. I can think of so many Americans who weren’t directly involved in the federal government but are at least as deserving as Ulysses S. Grant or JFK: Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Aaron Copland, Duke Ellington, Martin Luther King Jr., Mark Twain, Emily Dickinson, etc., etc., etc.

  • Robster

    What about Jane’s American cousin, Steve Austin? Six million dollars and all that.

  • Rich Wilson

    A rather poorly folded origami dragon. I haven’t folded for about 15 years (prior to this one) and my eyes aren’t as good. I need to get a decent hands free magnifying glass before I try again.

    Here’s a proper one folded by someone else. I don’t have any pictures of any of my own.

  • islandbrewer

    They picked Jane Austin over Benny Hill? Outrageous!

  • Astreja

    (Springy G starts chasing a “Yakety Sax” earworm around Her brain at quadruple speed) Aaaaugh! Make it stop!

  • captain_picard

    I heard from a commenter on Jezebel that the Darwin money is being changed just because a set time period had been established after which it would be changed. I do think that’s a pretty neat way to honor a lot of different people, rather than being stuck with a dickwad (pardon my French) like Andrew Jackson forever.

  • Brian


  • Phil

    If you want a stack of Darwin, um “dollars” (we tend to call them “pounds” in the old country)… you’ve got a currency exchange where you are, right?

  • Jennifer T

    Indeed, we’ve had a good selection of people on our money over the years – for the full list, see

  • Tel

    We cycle our bills. It’s quite fun, really. Glad he’s being replaced with a woman, since Elizabeth Fry is going to get kicked off the fiver, IIRC.

  • Nicholas Joseph

    Of all the brilliant British authors, they chose Austen? Why not Dickens? Or Tolkien? Or Orwell? Or……Wodehouse?

  • Guest

    Only if they do this…

  • 3lemenope

    Two things.

    First, if they hadn’t picked a woman, it would have been the first time in a long time that there would be no women whatsoever (except for the Queen, who doesn’t really count because cheating) on pound notes.

    Second, by many measures Austen is the most widely read English author ever.

    And, FWIW, they already used Dickens on the ten pound note from 1992-2003.

  • Greg G.

    Just the omission of Jane Austen’s books alone would make a fairly good library out of a library that hadn’t a book in it. –Mark Twain

    So when you’re broke, your wallet will be richer for having no Jane Austen bills in it.

  • Sheldon

    I want to second your recommendation of Orwell, but the British government may not like that idea, with as many CCTV cameras as there are covering London, Brits are already living in Oceania. ;)

    Not to mention GCHQ cooperating so much with the NSA on unjustified spying on civilians.

  • Tel

    Third, everyone currently loves the BBC period dramas that were made from/inspired by her books.

  • Tim

    It’s also a neat way to keep ahead of the forgers. Most countries change their paper money fairy regularly for that reason alone. Most countries also use colour combinations that are difficult to copy.
    US paper money is very conservative. It is also one of the few countries which has all of its paper money the same size. That must make it harder for poorly-sighted people.

  • Tim

    Apparently the Camp Quest summer camp in the USA uses as their prize for the “pink unicorn challenge” a pre-1950′s dollar bill without “In God we Trust” printed on it.
    In the UK the prize is Darwin Tenner signed by Richard Dawkins

  • Tim

    Not sure that is right. After an overlap period of a few years, old editions of the notes are withdrawn from circulation and are no longer legal tender (although the Ban of England will exchange them indefinately)

  • DeFKnoL

    Great to give to strippers or snort coke through. LOL

  • Machintelligence

    I am waiting with bated breath to see Millard Fillmore on a banknote.

  • SeekerLancer

    Render on to Jesus what is Jesus’?

  • Oranje

    The Orwell bill simply has to come with an implanted RFID chip.

  • Silent Service

    Stop giving them ideas, Hemant.

  • GubbaBumpkin

    Compared to those others, Austen has a superior number of X chromosomes.
    They needed a woman, and it’s certainly a better choice than Margaret Thatcher.

  • GubbaBumpkin

    Bride and Prejudice was my favourite, although as I recall that wasn’t done by the BBC.

  • GubbaBumpkin

    If the currency needs a Queen, why not Freddie Mercury?

  • baal

    Jesus founded the United States. I don’t understand why you atheists can’t honor him like the rest of the founding fathers.

  • Gus Snarp

    I have the perfect candidate if they needed a woman: Beatrix Potter. British. Woman. Beloved author. I expect more people have read her work than Austen’s, and fewer hate it. Scientist. Check mate.

  • Miss_Beara

    It isn’t called United Jesusville of Jesusland for nothing.

  • viaten

    I would think Jesus should go on the hundred dollar bill. But then he wouldn’t be seen as much. I don’t know which is better. Who would go on the 5, 10, 20 and 50? And don’t forget the 2 dollar bill. And then there are the coins.

  • Mark W.

    Was that before or after he killed Hitler and Stalin with a Falcon Punch to the spleen? I always get the dates mixed up. Oh yeah, happy belated 2013th birthday Murika!!!!

  • Tom

    The same-size thing also makes forgery easier – I gather one can take a low value note, bleach it and print a higher value design on it, thus bypassing the problem of getting the paper type exactly right. This is why higher denomination notes in other countries are larger than lower valued ones.

    Amusing anecdote this reminded me of: the Germans apparently has a wack plan to crash the British economy during WWII by flooding the country with masses of forged notes. The forged German notes could allegedly be spotted because they were made to a higher quality than the real thing – they used virgin fibres to make the fakes when real British banknotes were made from recycling old rags!

  • Kevin_Of_Bangor

    We could have baby Jesus on the 5, crucified Jesus on the 10 and we could use some of the 12 Apostles to round out the rest. We could always stick Judas on the two dollar bill because nobody seems to like them and for the coins we could have the 3 wise men, one for each coin or images of Noah and his Ark.

  • Rich Wilson

    I read that a US currency printing press was ‘lost’ during the Iranian revolution, and the US government actually calculated the economic damage of that press running full time making fake bills vs changing the currency. I think it was in a James Bamford book, but it was a while ago.

    Oh goodie, one google reference

  • viaten

    Sexist. What about the Virgin Mary?

  • Kevin_Of_Bangor

    She will get the One Dollar coin that nobody uses.

  • viaten

    A rather appropriate choice. Maybe a dove on the reverse side.

  • viaten

    Noah on the front side of the penny, ark on the back. A wise man/gift for nickles. A series of quarters for apostles.

  • sane37

    You can’t find god anywhere. Especially if you’re looking for physical evidence.

  • Sean Burton

    Screw authors, they should’ve chosen Ada Lovelace.

  • 3lemenope

    Can’t argue with Ada Lovelace being awesome. But, I don’t think she’s in any qualitative sense more or less awesome than being the most prominent written artist in the English language. So either way would be cool.

  • Mankoi

    I’d prefer Rosalind Franklin, seeing how she got snubbed for the five pound note, and needs the recognition much, much more than Jane Austin does. That’s not a snub against Austin, it’s just that Jane Austin is pretty well recognized these days, where Rosalind Franklin… is not.

  • C.L. Honeycutt

    These days the other Steve Austin, the Bionic Redneck, is more recognizable.

  • C.L. Honeycutt

    *dragon punch. Heathen.

  • C.L. Honeycutt

    God chould be on electronic currency!

  • allein

    Google did her birthday this week. :)

  • cr0sh

    Well – I don’t know if Lovelace would be “more or less awesome” than Austen – but there is this fact:

    Lovelace was the first computer programmer, and arguably saw more in the potential for computers than did even Charles Babbage; so much more that she not only wrote about them, but her writings were influential to others about these machines – include Babbage himself.

    She understood the capability (and how it was programmed) of Babbage’s Analytical Engine to such an extent that she was able to design and encode a program to run on it – a method for calculating a sequence of Bernoulli numbers. Babbage’s Analytical Engine was never built; Lovelace never got to see her program run. In the end, she died young of cancer.

    We still don’t know if her program would have run on the actual hardware; the hardware has never been built. All we do know is that it has been run successfully, on a simulation of the hardware, without error.

    It is a testament to her: Not only was she the first computer programmer, but her first program, which she could only imagine running in her head (what programmers call “being the computer” – it’s a form of analysis and debugging) – actually runs perfectly (albeit in simulation). She “coded blind” (meaning she coded a piece of software without having the hardware to prove that it worked) – and it ran without error.

    I can’t tell you how difficult this task is to accomplish on anything that isn’t a trivial process – even with the hardware at hand. To do so “blind” would seem almost impossible; it says something remarkable about her skills and abilities to “be the machine” and step through each step of the program, to validate its workings, to know its correctness.

    One could argue that her piece of software was trivial; I don’t recall that it was many lines of “code” (from what I do recall from her notes – the code looks strangely like assembly language; it was a simplified notation meant to be translated into the machines actual “instruction set”) – but at that point in time, any number of line of such “code” could be considered “non-trivial” – especially for a machine which only existed in the imagination!

    There have been many stories in media in recent times bemoaning the lack of women in STEM-related fields, especially computer programming. It would honestly be refreshing to see someone who should be a hero and inspiration for women seeking to go into such fields honored properly.

  • 3lemenope

    By “awesome” I meant, in short, exactly what you’re talking about. My only point was that because the accomplishments of both women are immense in their own fields, there is no objective way to compare the two. They are literally incomparably awesome.

    FWIW, when it comes to STEM and English woman, my vote would be for Rosalind Franklin.

  • gg

    Thanks for the tip. I’d forgotten that option. I shall do it this week! :)

  • Dower_House

    As noted above, we in UK change our money regularly to reduce forgery; the honouring of famous people from the past is relatively new though, and size and colour difference make muddling money very difficult.

  • Michael W Busch

    I am jealous of Aussie and Canadian money – different sizes, different colors, and multiply-layered polymer laminate paper that is durable, water-resistant, and apparently harder to forge. The higher cost of printing is supposed to be offset by the longer lifetime.