Margaret Thatcher eligible to be scientist on new £50 note

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.

In its public search for names to feature on the polymer note, the bank said it had received a total of 174,112 nominations, and the the former prime minister is on the list of some 800 eligible names published on Monday.

The late Baroness Thatcher is likely to have been included among a field of scientists due to her early career as a research chemist, including a period working for the food company J Lyons on emulsifiers for ice-creams.

It also comes after a campaign from the rightwing Guido Fawkes blog to “put Maggie on the new £50”, which was begun before the Bank said it was looking for a character from the field of science.

Margaret Thatcher in the late 1940s, when she worked as a research chemist

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 at the time.

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 as is Roger Bannister, the first runner to achieve the four-minute mile, given his later career in medicine. He died in March.

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.”