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First British motor car inventor nominated for new £50 bill

The #GetFredOnThe50 campaign has been launched by Coventry University’s Lanchester Interactive Archive in the hope of getting scientist Frederick Lanchester as the face of the new banknote being designed next year. 

The early 20th century engineer created the first all-British four-wheel motor car; held a patent for a flying machine years before the Wright brothers; built the first British motor boat and a hybrid electric motor vehicle in 1927; and patented technologies including disk brakes and four-wheel drive that are still in use today.

The archive team is now calling on the public to get behind the campaign and help raise support for the inventor to be chosen and help showcase and celebrate his lasting legacy. 

Jacqueline Cawston, Lanchester Interactive Archive project director, said: 

“Frederick Lanchester is a Coventry and a Midlands legacy. We want to see his name celebrated and what better way than as being the face of the new £50 note.

He was a true genius, and pioneered so many inventions years ahead of their time, many of which are still in use today. Coventry was where Fred and his brothers based their motor car company and we want that heritage to be celebrated, especially as we approach the City of Culture year.”

Jacqueline Cawston, Project Director, Lanchester Interactive Archive

The archive team will submit the nomination for Frederick Lanchester to be chosen as the new face for the banknote to the Bank of England before the deadline of December 14. 

The Coventry-based Lanchester Motor Company was founded by Frederick Lanchester and his brothers Frank and George; they built the first all-British four-wheel motor car in 1895. The company was acquired by Daimler at the end of 1930; in its heyday in the 1920s and 1930s it produced luxury cars fit for royalty – Queen Elizabeth’s first car was a Lanchester and her father, King George VI, owned several. 

But Lanchester wasn’t only interested in cars. He was a true polymath who patented more than 200 inventions, wrote seminal papers theorising the scientific principles of flight a decade before the reality of powered flight, and commented upon Einstein’s theory of relativity. Despite his lack of formal qualifications, he produced innovative work in several scientific fields and was involved in many business enterprises. 

The Lanchester Interactive Archive, funded through the Heritage Lottery and based at Coventry University’s Lanchester Library, is the world’s biggest collection of material dedicated to its namesake, held in a permanent exhibition space to preserve and promote the legacy to students and members of the public. 

The public is invited to learn more about it at and participate in the social media campaign using the hashtags #GetFredOnThe50 and #ThinkScience.  

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