Alan Turing - School Student (Commentary)

Alan Turing - School Student (Commentary)

This commentary is based on the classroom activity: Alan Turing - School Student

Q1: Study source 2. Why did Alan Turing have problems at Hazel Hurst Preparatory School?

A1: Alan Turing was very interested in science and mathematics but the school "specialized in teaching Latin, Greek, literature and the classics in preparation for public school."

Q2: How did Alan Turing's mother deal with his "appalling school reports at Sherborne"?

A2: According to his brother John she was "constantly nagging him" about his failings.

Q3: Make a list of the teacher's comments at Sherborne that (a) praised (b) criticized Alan Turing.

A3: (a) "genius"; "special gifts". (b) "Alan's mathematics... was not very good"; "He spends a great deal of time in investigations in advanced mathematics to the neglect of his elementary work"; "his knowledge (in science) is scrappy": "trying to build a roof before he has laid the foundations"; "anti-social"; "the kind of boy who is bound to be a problem in any kind of school".

Q4: Select passages from the sources that explain why Alan Turing became friends with Christopher Morcom.

A4: "Together they discussed the latest scientific news and conducted their own experiments" (source 6). "Morcom gave Turing a vital period of intellectual companionship" (source 7).

Q5: How does source 10 help us understand what Alan Turing meant in his letter to Christopher Morcom's mother (source 9).

A5: Alan Turing told Christopher Morcom's mother that the photograph of her son on his table encouraged him to work hard. The author of source 10 believes that he was motivated by the need to "fulfill his friend's potential". Morcom had already won a place at Cambridge University. "Turing believed it was his duty also to win a place at Cambridge, and then to make the discoveries his friend would otherwise have made."


Alan Mathison Turing was born on 23 June 1912, at Warrington Lodge, Warrington Avenue, London to Julius Mathison Turing and Ethel Sara Stoney. Julius worked in the Indian Civil Service, so until he retired in 1926 he fostered his children, Alan and John, out to English homes, in particular with the aptly named Wards in St Leonards-on-Sea.

Alan (the younger of the two) attended Hazelhurst preparatory school 1922-6. His schoolboy letters to his parents reveal his interest in mathematics and chemistry, often including his latest inventions.


Thinking machines

As a teenager, Alan had read Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. His interest in the new and then-unknown field of quantum mechanics inspired him to work on developing ‘machines that could think’. After World War II, Turing worked on developing a ‘Universal Turing machine’, where something mechanical could be programmed to perform tasks set by the human mind. He was always fascinated by the relationship between human thought and automated processes and inventions. In 1950, he wrote about the ‘Turing Test’, an experiment that tested a machine’s ability to mimic human intelligence. His work laid the foundation for the development of computers and Artificial Intelligence (AI).


It is hard to overstate the importance of Alan Turing, the British mathematician who died in 1954. He was a hero in science, for one. Turing invented the concepts that underlie modern computers and artificial intelligence. And he was a hero in war: He was a vital part of the British cryptographic team at Bletchley Park that cracked the German Enigma code during World War II.

Harvard is celebrating Turing’s centenary year with “Go Ask A.L.I.C.E.,” an exhibit of “Turing Tests, Parlor Games, and ChatterBots,” which opened Tuesday and will run through Dec. 20 in the Science Center, Room 252.

Gerald Holton, professor of the history of science emeritus and Mallinckrodt Professor of Physics, was among the first visitors to the exhibit, minutes after it opened. He stood in front of one of the interactive machines and asked no one in particular, “Can we break the Enigma code?”

The exhibit is visually appealing, full of information, and even fun, said Holton, who is 90, and who said Turing’s work in computational science was “a turning point in modern civilization.” Then he looked down for a moment. “But I can’t help feeling some sadness at his demise.” Turing was only 41 when he died, an apparent suicide. Not long before, Turing had been convicted of “gross indecency” for being a homosexual. He lost his security clearance and in lieu of prison was forced to undergo hormonal therapy.

“He was turned against by a country to which he devoted his every force,” said Joseph Pellegrino University Professor Peter Galison. “It still seems medieval to me.”

But the exhibit takes a lighter touch. “We wanted some gestures to that part of the story without making it central,” said co-curator Stephanie Dick, a Ph.D. student in the history of science program at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

“Go Ask A.L.I.C.E.” is sponsored by the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments, where Galison is director, and was funded by the David P. Wheatland Charitable Trust. Also co-curating the show are history of science assistant professor Sophia Roosth and department Ph.D. student James Bergman.

A.L.I.C.E. is an acronym with at least 15 scientific and military meanings. But in Turing’s world, it stands for Artificial Linguistic Internet Computer Entity. “ChatterBot” is related slang, describing a program intended to allow computers to engage in small talk.

The possibility of human-machine interaction was one of Turing’s most durable fascinations. (The exhibit calls it “the dream of a common language,” a Turing-inspired idea. It defied the notion that computers are intended only to process numerical data.)

The exhibit traces Turing from his boyhood in colonial India and at two British boarding schools, through his landmark theories of the 1930s, and into his wartime science, when the Bletchley research helped to shape computers as we know them. The show moves into the 1950s, when he conceived what most people associate with him: the Turing Test. It’s designed to gauge the likelihood of a machine having what could be described as intelligence. Turing introduced the test in a 1950 paper that began, “Can machines think?”

All that Turing did was governed by “exchanges between people,” said Galison, and then he went in search of a way for machines to “respond indistinguishably” from humans. “The Turing Test was a way to take thinking out of the domain of the metaphysical and make it into a communication act.”

But can communication happen without affect? The exhibit is designed to inspire questions like that, and to make people think about communication generally, said student and co-curator Bergman. For one thing, “We interact so often with machines now, and we often ascribe to them human qualities. We were able to drill down on a lot of history of this.”

Turing’s question about thinking machines arose, in part, because of an earlier fascination: harnessing human computational power en masse in something he hypothesized in 1936 as the Universal Turing Machine. (The word “computer” did not apply yet.) The exhibit includes a well-worn bound copy of the original 1936 paper in the Proceedings of the London Mathematical Society, as well as something Turing never saw in his own lifetime: a model by artist Mike Davey of what his machine might look like, with its 1s and 0s and its spool of tape “of indefinite length.”

But if machines can calculate automatically and speedily, Turing thought, perhaps they could also communicate: to have textual exchanges with humans that simulate, in the words of the exhibit, “intuition, emotion, and consciousness.”

“Go Ask A.L.I.C.E.,” with its several interactive stations, is designed to test that idea and to demonstrate its iterations through time. Viewers can sit down and take the Turing Test. Type a greeting, and you will get an answer. Is it from a real person at a computer terminal, or from a machine? You decide.

Viewers can also take a close look at two on-loan Enigma machines, the stout steel-and-wood devices the size of hatboxes that almost defeated the Allies in WWII. “It seemed like a key object for us,” said Roosth, the professor and co-curator.

Detail from a 1930s teletype machine.

Viewers can handle punch cards, the heart of computation machines through the 1960s. (The categories “hole” and “no hole” were the equivalent of the binary “1” and “0”.) Visitors can read about natural language processing schemes that ease communication with computers, including LISP from 1962.

And viewers can browse some of the ways that artificial intelligence was seen in the mainstream press, and in what the exhibit curators call the “fantasy, desire, and paranoia” of science fiction. In those realms, communicating machines can be helpful servants, like C3PO from the “Star Wars” trilogy. Or they can be enemies masquerading as people, like the bioengineered faux humans in “Blade Runner.”

Servant, enemy — or fake? In one corner of the exhibit, Ben Kuhn ’15 wanted to find out. He turned on a Depression-era teletype machine of the type Turing had used. The C3PO-size machine warmed up with a deep hum, and Kuhn typed out a greeting on the clacking old keys. “Hi Alice.”

An answer chattered back, typed in ink on a roll of paper: “The explanation is rather complicated.” Kuhn, who wrote the teletype machine chatterbot software, was gentle with his computer interlocutor. “Writing something to simulate a human is really hard,” he said.

Alice did better with another question, “Why does the sun rise?” Logically, and from a firm dataset, Alice replied: “The Earth rotates.”

Still, Turing had launched an idea: Develop human-machine interactions that sound real. The exhibit points to one such advance, the ELIZA computer program developed during the 1960s at what was then the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory by Joseph Weizenbaum (1923-2008). The concept was to simulate the responses a therapist might have in an intimate conversation. But Weizenbaum was dismayed when his secretary asked to be left alone with ELIZA so she could have a real conversation. “No one understands,” said a frustrated Weizenbaum later. “No one is there.” By the 1970s, he was a critic of the limitations of artificial intelligence.

In his own day, Turing asked an even bigger question about communication, in part inspired by the death of a friend in childhood, and the longing for his company: Could there be human interaction without the human body — by the spirit alone? But he concluded there would be “nothing to do.” Turing’s rumination included a list of all the things missed in spirit-to-spirit communication, said Roosth. “Food and sex were foremost.”


Contents

Family

Turing was born in Maida Vale, London, [7] while his father, Julius Mathison Turing (1873–1947), was on leave from his position with the Indian Civil Service (ICS) at Chatrapur, then in the Madras Presidency and presently in Odisha state, in India. [17] [18] Turing's father was the son of a clergyman, the Rev. John Robert Turing, from a Scottish family of merchants that had been based in the Netherlands and included a baronet. Turing's mother, Julius's wife, was Ethel Sara Turing ( née Stoney 1881–1976), [7] daughter of Edward Waller Stoney, chief engineer of the Madras Railways. The Stoneys were a Protestant Anglo-Irish gentry family from both County Tipperary and County Longford, while Ethel herself had spent much of her childhood in County Clare. [19]

Julius's work with the ICS brought the family to British India, where his grandfather had been a general in the Bengal Army. However, both Julius and Ethel wanted their children to be brought up in Britain, so they moved to Maida Vale, [20] London, where Alan Turing was born on 23 June 1912, as recorded by a blue plaque on the outside of the house of his birth, [21] [22] later the Colonnade Hotel. [17] [23] Turing had an elder brother, John (the father of Sir John Dermot Turing, 12th Baronet of the Turing baronets). [24]

Turing's father's civil service commission was still active and during Turing's childhood years, his parents travelled between Hastings in the United Kingdom [25] and India, leaving their two sons to stay with a retired Army couple. At Hastings, Turing stayed at Baston Lodge, Upper Maze Hill, St Leonards-on-Sea, now marked with a blue plaque. [26] The plaque was unveiled on 23 June 2012, the centenary of Turing's birth. [27]

Very early in life, Turing showed signs of the genius that he was later to display prominently. [28] His parents purchased a house in Guildford in 1927, and Turing lived there during school holidays. The location is also marked with a blue plaque. [29]

School

Turing's parents enrolled him at St Michael's, a day school at 20 Charles Road, St Leonards-on-Sea, at the age of six. The headmistress recognised his talent early on, as did many of his subsequent teachers. [ citation needed ]

Between January 1922 and 1926, Turing was educated at Hazelhurst Preparatory School, an independent school in the village of Frant in Sussex (now East Sussex). [30] In 1926, at the age of 13, he went on to Sherborne School, [31] a boarding independent school in the market town of Sherborne in Dorset, where he boarded at Westcott House. The first day of term coincided with the 1926 General Strike, in Britain, but Turing was so determined to attend, that he rode his bicycle unaccompanied 60 miles (97 km) from Southampton to Sherborne, stopping overnight at an inn. [32]

Turing's natural inclination towards mathematics and science did not earn him respect from some of the teachers at Sherborne, whose definition of education placed more emphasis on the classics. His headmaster wrote to his parents: "I hope he will not fall between two stools. If he is to stay at public school, he must aim at becoming educated. If he is to be solely a Scientific Specialist, he is wasting his time at a public school". [33] Despite this, Turing continued to show remarkable ability in the studies he loved, solving advanced problems in 1927 without having studied even elementary calculus. In 1928, aged 16, Turing encountered Albert Einstein's work not only did he grasp it, but it is possible that he managed to deduce Einstein's questioning of Newton's laws of motion from a text in which this was never made explicit. [34]

Christopher Morcom

At Sherborne, Turing formed a significant friendship with fellow pupil Christopher Collan Morcom (13 July 1911 – 13 February 1930), [35] who has been described as Turing's "first love". Their relationship provided inspiration in Turing's future endeavours, but it was cut short by Morcom's death, in February 1930, from complications of bovine tuberculosis, contracted after drinking infected cow's milk some years previously. [36] [37] [38]

The event caused Turing great sorrow. He coped with his grief by working that much harder on the topics of science and mathematics that he had shared with Morcom. In a letter to Morcom's mother, Frances Isobel Morcom (née Swan), Turing wrote:

I am sure I could not have found anywhere another companion so brilliant and yet so charming and unconceited. I regarded my interest in my work, and in such things as astronomy (to which he introduced me) as something to be shared with him and I think he felt a little the same about me . I know I must put as much energy if not as much interest into my work as if he were alive, because that is what he would like me to do. [39]

Turing's relationship with Morcom's mother continued long after Morcom's death, with her sending gifts to Turing, and him sending letters, typically on Morcom's birthdays. [40] A day before the third anniversary of Morcom's death (13 February 1933), he wrote to Mrs. Morcom:

I expect you will be thinking of Chris when this reaches you. I shall too, and this letter is just to tell you that I shall be thinking of Chris and of you tomorrow. I am sure that he is as happy now as he was when he was here. Your affectionate Alan. [41]

Some have speculated that Morcom's death was the cause of Turing's atheism and materialism. [42] Apparently, at this point in his life he still believed in such concepts as a spirit, independent of the body and surviving death. In a later letter, also written to Morcom's mother, Turing wrote:

Personally, I believe that spirit is really eternally connected with matter but certainly not by the same kind of body . as regards the actual connection between spirit and body I consider that the body can hold on to a 'spirit', whilst the body is alive and awake the two are firmly connected. When the body is asleep I cannot guess what happens but when the body dies, the 'mechanism' of the body, holding the spirit is gone and the spirit finds a new body sooner or later, perhaps immediately. [43] [44]

University and work on computability

After Sherborne, Turing studied as an undergraduate from 1931 to 1934 at King's College, Cambridge, [7] where he was awarded first-class honours in mathematics. In 1935, at the age of 22, he was elected a Fellow of King's College on the strength of a dissertation in which he proved the central limit theorem. [45] Unknown to the committee, the theorem had already been proven, in 1922, by Jarl Waldemar Lindeberg. [46]

In 1936, Turing published his paper "On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem". [47] It was published in the Proceedings of the London Mathematical Society journal in two parts, the first on 30 November and the second on 23 December. [48] In this paper, Turing reformulated Kurt Gödel's 1931 results on the limits of proof and computation, replacing Gödel's universal arithmetic-based formal language with the formal and simple hypothetical devices that became known as Turing machines. The Entscheidungsproblem (decision problem) was originally posed by German mathematician David Hilbert in 1928. Turing proved that his "universal computing machine" would be capable of performing any conceivable mathematical computation if it were representable as an algorithm. He went on to prove that there was no solution to the decision problem by first showing that the halting problem for Turing machines is undecidable: it is not possible to decide algorithmically whether a Turing machine will ever halt. This paper has been called "easily the most influential math paper in history". [49]

Although Turing's proof was published shortly after Alonzo Church's equivalent proof using his lambda calculus, [50] Turing's approach is considerably more accessible and intuitive than Church's. [51] It also included a notion of a 'Universal Machine' (now known as a universal Turing machine), with the idea that such a machine could perform the tasks of any other computation machine (as indeed could Church's lambda calculus). According to the Church–Turing thesis, Turing machines and the lambda calculus are capable of computing anything that is computable. John von Neumann acknowledged that the central concept of the modern computer was due to Turing's paper. [52] To this day, Turing machines are a central object of study in theory of computation.

From September 1936 to July 1938, Turing spent most of his time studying under Church at Princeton University, [4] in the second year as a Jane Eliza Procter Visiting Fellow. In addition to his purely mathematical work, he studied cryptology and also built three of four stages of an electro-mechanical binary multiplier. [53] In June 1938, he obtained his PhD from the Department of Mathematics at Princeton [54] his dissertation, Systems of Logic Based on Ordinals, [55] [56] introduced the concept of ordinal logic and the notion of relative computing, in which Turing machines are augmented with so-called oracles, allowing the study of problems that cannot be solved by Turing machines. John von Neumann wanted to hire him as his postdoctoral assistant, but he went back to the United Kingdom. [57]

When Turing returned to Cambridge, he attended lectures given in 1939 by Ludwig Wittgenstein about the foundations of mathematics. [58] The lectures have been reconstructed verbatim, including interjections from Turing and other students, from students' notes. [59] Turing and Wittgenstein argued and disagreed, with Turing defending formalism and Wittgenstein propounding his view that mathematics does not discover any absolute truths, but rather invents them. [60]

Cryptanalysis

During the Second World War, Turing was a leading participant in the breaking of German ciphers at Bletchley Park. The historian and wartime codebreaker Asa Briggs has said, "You needed exceptional talent, you needed genius at Bletchley and Turing's was that genius." [61]

From September 1938, Turing worked part-time with the Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS), the British codebreaking organisation. He concentrated on cryptanalysis of the Enigma cipher machine used by Nazi Germany, together with Dilly Knox, a senior GC&CS codebreaker. [62] Soon after the July 1939 meeting near Warsaw at which the Polish Cipher Bureau gave the British and French details of the wiring of Enigma machine's rotors and their method of decrypting Enigma machine's messages, Turing and Knox developed a broader solution. [63] The Polish method relied on an insecure indicator procedure that the Germans were likely to change, which they in fact did in May 1940. Turing's approach was more general, using crib-based decryption for which he produced the functional specification of the bombe (an improvement on the Polish Bomba). [64]

On 4 September 1939, the day after the UK declared war on Germany, Turing reported to Bletchley Park, the wartime station of GC&CS. [65] Specifying the bombe was the first of five major cryptanalytical advances that Turing made during the war. The others were: deducing the indicator procedure used by the German navy developing a statistical procedure dubbed Banburismus for making much more efficient use of the bombes developing a procedure dubbed Turingery for working out the cam settings of the wheels of the Lorenz SZ 40/42 (Tunny) cipher machine and, towards the end of the war, the development of a portable secure voice scrambler at Hanslope Park that was codenamed Delilah.

By using statistical techniques to optimise the trial of different possibilities in the code breaking process, Turing made an innovative contribution to the subject. He wrote two papers discussing mathematical approaches, titled The Applications of Probability to Cryptography [66] and Paper on Statistics of Repetitions, [67] which were of such value to GC&CS and its successor GCHQ that they were not released to the UK National Archives until April 2012, shortly before the centenary of his birth. A GCHQ mathematician, "who identified himself only as Richard," said at the time that the fact that the contents had been restricted for some 70 years demonstrated their importance, and their relevance to post-war cryptanalysis: [68]

[He] said the fact that the contents had been restricted "shows what a tremendous importance it has in the foundations of our subject". . The papers detailed using "mathematical analysis to try and determine which are the more likely settings so that they can be tried as quickly as possible." . Richard said that GCHQ had now "squeezed the juice" out of the two papers and was "happy for them to be released into the public domain".

Turing had a reputation for eccentricity at Bletchley Park. He was known to his colleagues as "Prof" and his treatise on Enigma was known as the "Prof's Book". [69] According to historian Ronald Lewin, Jack Good, a cryptanalyst who worked with Turing, said of his colleague:

In the first week of June each year he would get a bad attack of hay fever, and he would cycle to the office wearing a service gas mask to keep the pollen off. His bicycle had a fault: the chain would come off at regular intervals. Instead of having it mended he would count the number of times the pedals went round and would get off the bicycle in time to adjust the chain by hand. Another of his eccentricities is that he chained his mug to the radiator pipes to prevent it being stolen. [70]

Peter Hilton recounted his experience working with Turing in Hut 8 in his "Reminiscences of Bletchley Park" from A Century of Mathematics in America: [71]

It is a rare experience to meet an authentic genius. Those of us privileged to inhabit the world of scholarship are familiar with the intellectual stimulation furnished by talented colleagues. We can admire the ideas they share with us and are usually able to understand their source we may even often believe that we ourselves could have created such concepts and originated such thoughts. However, the experience of sharing the intellectual life of a genius is entirely different one realizes that one is in the presence of an intelligence, a sensibility of such profundity and originality that one is filled with wonder and excitement. Alan Turing was such a genius, and those, like myself, who had the astonishing and unexpected opportunity, created by the strange exigencies of the Second World War, to be able to count Turing as colleague and friend will never forget that experience, nor can we ever lose its immense benefit to us.

Hilton echoed similar thoughts in the Nova PBS documentary Decoding Nazi Secrets. [72]

While working at Bletchley, Turing, who was a talented long-distance runner, occasionally ran the 40 miles (64 km) to London when he was needed for meetings, [73] and he was capable of world-class marathon standards. [74] [75] Turing tried out for the 1948 British Olympic team but he was hampered by an injury. His tryout time for the marathon was only 11 minutes slower than British silver medallist Thomas Richards' Olympic race time of 2 hours 35 minutes. He was Walton Athletic Club's best runner, a fact discovered when he passed the group while running alone. [76] [77] [78] When asked why he ran so hard in training he replied:

I have such a stressful job that the only way I can get it out of my mind is by running hard it’s the only way I can get some release.

In 1946, Turing was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) by King George VI for his wartime services, but his work remained secret for many years. [80] [81]

Bombe

Within weeks of arriving at Bletchley Park, [65] Turing had specified an electromechanical machine called the bombe, which could break Enigma more effectively than the Polish bomba kryptologiczna, from which its name was derived. The bombe, with an enhancement suggested by mathematician Gordon Welchman, became one of the primary tools, and the major automated one, used to attack Enigma-enciphered messages. [82]

The bombe searched for possible correct settings used for an Enigma message (i.e., rotor order, rotor settings and plugboard settings) using a suitable crib: a fragment of probable plaintext. For each possible setting of the rotors (which had on the order of 10 19 states, or 10 22 states for the four-rotor U-boat variant), [83] the bombe performed a chain of logical deductions based on the crib, implemented electromechanically. [84]

The bombe detected when a contradiction had occurred and ruled out that setting, moving on to the next. Most of the possible settings would cause contradictions and be discarded, leaving only a few to be investigated in detail. A contradiction would occur when an enciphered letter would be turned back into the same plaintext letter, which was impossible with the Enigma. The first bombe was installed on 18 March 1940. [85]

By late 1941, Turing and his fellow cryptanalysts Gordon Welchman, Hugh Alexander and Stuart Milner-Barry were frustrated. Building on the work of the Poles, they had set up a good working system for decrypting Enigma signals, but their limited staff and bombes meant they could not translate all the signals. In the summer, they had considerable success, and shipping losses had fallen to under 100,000 tons a month however, they badly needed more resources to keep abreast of German adjustments. They had tried to get more people and fund more bombes through the proper channels, but had failed. [86]

On 28 October they wrote directly to Winston Churchill explaining their difficulties, with Turing as the first named. They emphasised how small their need was compared with the vast expenditure of men and money by the forces and compared with the level of assistance they could offer to the forces. [86] As Andrew Hodges, biographer of Turing, later wrote, "This letter had an electric effect." [87] Churchill wrote a memo to General Ismay, which read: "ACTION THIS DAY. Make sure they have all they want on extreme priority and report to me that this has been done." On 18 November, the chief of the secret service reported that every possible measure was being taken. [87] The cryptographers at Bletchley Park did not know of the Prime Minister's response, but as Milner-Barry recalled, "All that we did notice was that almost from that day the rough ways began miraculously to be made smooth." [88] More than two hundred bombes were in operation by the end of the war. [89]

Hut 8 and the naval Enigma

Turing decided to tackle the particularly difficult problem of German naval Enigma "because no one else was doing anything about it and I could have it to myself". [91] In December 1939, Turing solved the essential part of the naval indicator system, which was more complex than the indicator systems used by the other services. [91] [92]

That same night, he also conceived of the idea of Banburismus, a sequential statistical technique (what Abraham Wald later called sequential analysis) to assist in breaking the naval Enigma, "though I was not sure that it would work in practice, and was not, in fact, sure until some days had actually broken." [91] For this, he invented a measure of weight of evidence that he called the ban. Banburismus could rule out certain sequences of the Enigma rotors, substantially reducing the time needed to test settings on the bombes. [93] Later this sequential process of accumulating sufficient weight of evidence using decibans (one tenth of a ban) was used in Cryptanalysis of the Lorenz cipher. [94]

Turing travelled to the United States in November 1942 [95] and worked with US Navy cryptanalysts on the naval Enigma and bombe construction in Washington he also visited their Computing Machine Laboratory in Dayton, Ohio.

Turing's reaction to the American bombe design was far from enthusiastic:

The American Bombe programme was to produce 336 Bombes, one for each wheel order. I used to smile inwardly at the conception of Bombe hut routine implied by this programme, but thought that no particular purpose would be served by pointing out that we would not really use them in that way. Their test (of commutators) can hardly be considered conclusive as they were not testing for the bounce with electronic stop finding devices. Nobody seems to be told about rods or offiziers or banburismus unless they are really going to do something about it. [96]

During this trip, he also assisted at Bell Labs with the development of secure speech devices. [97] He returned to Bletchley Park in March 1943. During his absence, Hugh Alexander had officially assumed the position of head of Hut 8, although Alexander had been de facto head for some time (Turing having little interest in the day-to-day running of the section). Turing became a general consultant for cryptanalysis at Bletchley Park. [98]

Alexander wrote of Turing's contribution:

There should be no question in anyone's mind that Turing's work was the biggest factor in Hut 8's success. In the early days, he was the only cryptographer who thought the problem worth tackling and not only was he primarily responsible for the main theoretical work within the Hut, but he also shared with Welchman and Keen the chief credit for the invention of the bombe. It is always difficult to say that anyone is 'absolutely indispensable', but if anyone was indispensable to Hut 8, it was Turing. The pioneer's work always tends to be forgotten when experience and routine later make everything seem easy and many of us in Hut 8 felt that the magnitude of Turing's contribution was never fully realised by the outside world. [99]

Turingery

In July 1942, Turing devised a technique termed Turingery (or jokingly Turingismus) [100] for use against the Lorenz cipher messages produced by the Germans' new Geheimschreiber (secret writer) machine. This was a teleprinter rotor cipher attachment codenamed Tunny at Bletchley Park. Turingery was a method of wheel-breaking, i.e., a procedure for working out the cam settings of Tunny's wheels. [101] He also introduced the Tunny team to Tommy Flowers who, under the guidance of Max Newman, went on to build the Colossus computer, the world's first programmable digital electronic computer, which replaced a simpler prior machine (the Heath Robinson), and whose superior speed allowed the statistical decryption techniques to be applied usefully to the messages. [102] Some have mistakenly said that Turing was a key figure in the design of the Colossus computer. Turingery and the statistical approach of Banburismus undoubtedly fed into the thinking about cryptanalysis of the Lorenz cipher, [103] [104] but he was not directly involved in the Colossus development. [105]

Delilah

Following his work at Bell Labs in the US, [106] Turing pursued the idea of electronic enciphering of speech in the telephone system. In the latter part of the war, he moved to work for the Secret Service's Radio Security Service (later HMGCC) at Hanslope Park. At the park, he further developed his knowledge of electronics with the assistance of engineer Donald Bayley. Together they undertook the design and construction of a portable secure voice communications machine codenamed Delilah. [107] The machine was intended for different applications, but it lacked the capability for use with long-distance radio transmissions. In any case, Delilah was completed too late to be used during the war. Though the system worked fully, with Turing demonstrating it to officials by encrypting and decrypting a recording of a Winston Churchill speech, Delilah was not adopted for use. [108] Turing also consulted with Bell Labs on the development of SIGSALY, a secure voice system that was used in the later years of the war.

Early computers and the Turing test

Between 1945 and 1947, Turing lived in Hampton, London, [109] while he worked on the design of the ACE (Automatic Computing Engine) at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL). He presented a paper on 19 February 1946, which was the first detailed design of a stored-program computer. [110] Von Neumann's incomplete First Draft of a Report on the EDVAC had predated Turing's paper, but it was much less detailed and, according to John R. Womersley, Superintendent of the NPL Mathematics Division, it "contains a number of ideas which are Dr. Turing's own". [111] Although ACE was a feasible design, the secrecy surrounding the wartime work at Bletchley Park led to delays in starting the project and he became disillusioned. In late 1947 he returned to Cambridge for a sabbatical year during which he produced a seminal work on Intelligent Machinery that was not published in his lifetime. [112] While he was at Cambridge, the Pilot ACE was being built in his absence. It executed its first program on 10 May 1950, and a number of later computers around the world owe much to it, including the English Electric DEUCE and the American Bendix G-15. The full version of Turing's ACE was not built until after his death. [113]

According to the memoirs of the German computer pioneer Heinz Billing from the Max Planck Institute for Physics, published by Genscher, Düsseldorf, there was a meeting between Turing and Konrad Zuse. [114] It took place in Göttingen in 1947. The interrogation had the form of a colloquium. Participants were Womersley, Turing, Porter from England and a few German researchers like Zuse, Walther, and Billing (for more details see Herbert Bruderer, Konrad Zuse und die Schweiz).

In 1948, Turing was appointed reader in the Mathematics Department at the Victoria University of Manchester. A year later, he became Deputy Director of the Computing Machine Laboratory, where he worked on software for one of the earliest stored-program computers—the Manchester Mark 1. Turing wrote the first version of the Programmer's Manual for this machine, and was recruited by Ferranti as a consultant in the development of their commercialised machine, the Ferranti Mark 1. He continued to be paid consultancy fees by Ferranti until his death. [115] During this time, he continued to do more abstract work in mathematics, [116] and in "Computing Machinery and Intelligence" (Mind, October 1950), Turing addressed the problem of artificial intelligence, and proposed an experiment that became known as the Turing test, an attempt to define a standard for a machine to be called "intelligent". The idea was that a computer could be said to "think" if a human interrogator could not tell it apart, through conversation, from a human being. [117] In the paper, Turing suggested that rather than building a program to simulate the adult mind, it would be better to produce a simpler one to simulate a child's mind and then to subject it to a course of education. A reversed form of the Turing test is widely used on the Internet the CAPTCHA test is intended to determine whether the user is a human or a computer.

In 1948 Turing, working with his former undergraduate colleague, D.G. Champernowne, began writing a chess program for a computer that did not yet exist. By 1950, the program was completed and dubbed the Turochamp. [118] In 1952, he tried to implement it on a Ferranti Mark 1, but lacking enough power, the computer was unable to execute the program. Instead, Turing "ran" the program by flipping through the pages of the algorithm and carrying out its instructions on a chessboard, taking about half an hour per move. The game was recorded. [119] According to Garry Kasparov, Turing's program "played a recognizable game of chess." [120] The program lost to Turing's colleague Alick Glennie, although it is said that it won a game against Champernowne's wife, Isabel. [121]

His Turing test was a significant, characteristically provocative, and lasting contribution to the debate regarding artificial intelligence, which continues after more than half a century. [122]

Pattern formation and mathematical biology

When Turing was 39 years old in 1951, he turned to mathematical biology, finally publishing his masterpiece "The Chemical Basis of Morphogenesis" in January 1952. He was interested in morphogenesis, the development of patterns and shapes in biological organisms. He suggested that a system of chemicals reacting with each other and diffusing across space, termed a reaction-diffusion system, could account for "the main phenomena of morphogenesis". [123] He used systems of partial differential equations to model catalytic chemical reactions. For example, if a catalyst A is required for a certain chemical reaction to take place, and if the reaction produced more of the catalyst A, then we say that the reaction is autocatalytic, and there is positive feedback that can be modelled by nonlinear differential equations. Turing discovered that patterns could be created if the chemical reaction not only produced catalyst A, but also produced an inhibitor B that slowed down the production of A. If A and B then diffused through the container at different rates, then you could have some regions where A dominated and some where B did. To calculate the extent of this, Turing would have needed a powerful computer, but these were not so freely available in 1951, so he had to use linear approximations to solve the equations by hand. These calculations gave the right qualitative results, and produced, for example, a uniform mixture that oddly enough had regularly spaced fixed red spots. The Russian biochemist Boris Belousov had performed experiments with similar results, but could not get his papers published because of the contemporary prejudice that any such thing violated the second law of thermodynamics. Belousov was not aware of Turing's paper in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. [124]

Although published before the structure and role of DNA was understood, Turing's work on morphogenesis remains relevant today and is considered a seminal piece of work in mathematical biology. [125] One of the early applications of Turing's paper was the work by James Murray explaining spots and stripes on the fur of cats, large and small. [126] [127] [128] Further research in the area suggests that Turing's work can partially explain the growth of "feathers, hair follicles, the branching pattern of lungs, and even the left-right asymmetry that puts the heart on the left side of the chest." [129] In 2012, Sheth, et al. found that in mice, removal of Hox genes causes an increase in the number of digits without an increase in the overall size of the limb, suggesting that Hox genes control digit formation by tuning the wavelength of a Turing-type mechanism. [130] Later papers were not available until Collected Works of A. M. Turing was published in 1992. [131]

Engagement

In 1941, Turing proposed marriage to Hut 8 colleague Joan Clarke, a fellow mathematician and cryptanalyst, but their engagement was short-lived. After admitting his homosexuality to his fiancée, who was reportedly "unfazed" by the revelation, Turing decided that he could not go through with the marriage. [132]

Conviction for indecency

In January 1952, Turing was 39 when he started a relationship with Arnold Murray, a 19-year-old unemployed man. Just before Christmas, Turing was walking along Manchester's Oxford Road when he met Murray just outside the Regal Cinema and invited him to lunch. On 23 January, Turing's house was burgled. Murray told Turing that he and the burglar were acquainted, and Turing reported the crime to the police. During the investigation, he acknowledged a sexual relationship with Murray. Homosexual acts were criminal offences in the United Kingdom at that time, [133] and both men were charged with "gross indecency" under Section 11 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885. [134] Initial committal proceedings for the trial were held on 27 February during which Turing's solicitor "reserved his defence", i.e., did not argue or provide evidence against the allegations.

Turing was later convinced by the advice of his brother and his own solicitor, and he entered a plea of guilty. [135] The case, Regina v. Turing and Murray, was brought to trial on 31 March 1952. [136] Turing was convicted and given a choice between imprisonment and probation. His probation would be conditional on his agreement to undergo hormonal physical changes designed to reduce libido. He accepted the option of injections of what was then called stilboestrol (now known as diethylstilbestrol or DES), a synthetic oestrogen this feminization of his body was continued for the course of one year. The treatment rendered Turing impotent and caused breast tissue to form, [137] fulfilling in the literal sense Turing's prediction that "no doubt I shall emerge from it all a different man, but quite who I've not found out". [138] [139] Murray was given a conditional discharge. [140]

Turing's conviction led to the removal of his security clearance and barred him from continuing with his cryptographic consultancy for the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the British signals intelligence agency that had evolved from GC&CS in 1946, though he kept his academic job. He was denied entry into the United States after his conviction in 1952, but was free to visit other European countries. Turing was never accused of espionage but, in common with all who had worked at Bletchley Park, he was prevented by the Official Secrets Act from discussing his war work. [141]

Death

On 8 June 1954, Turing's housekeeper found him dead at the age of 41 he had died the previous day. Cyanide poisoning was established as the cause of death. [142] When his body was discovered, an apple lay half-eaten beside his bed, and although the apple was not tested for cyanide, [143] it was speculated that this was the means by which Turing had consumed a fatal dose. An inquest determined that he had committed suicide. Andrew Hodges and another biographer, David Leavitt, have both speculated that Turing was re-enacting a scene from the Walt Disney film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), his favourite fairy tale. Both men noted that (in Leavitt's words) he took "an especially keen pleasure in the scene where the Wicked Queen immerses her apple in the poisonous brew". [144] Turing's remains were cremated at Woking Crematorium on 12 June 1954, [145] and his ashes were scattered in the gardens of the crematorium, just as his father's had been. [146]

Philosophy professor Jack Copeland has questioned various aspects of the coroner's historical verdict. He suggested an alternative explanation for the cause of Turing's death: the accidental inhalation of cyanide fumes from an apparatus used to electroplate gold onto spoons. The potassium cyanide was used to dissolve the gold. Turing had such an apparatus set up in his tiny spare room. Copeland noted that the autopsy findings were more consistent with inhalation than with ingestion of the poison. Turing also habitually ate an apple before going to bed, and it was not unusual for the apple to be discarded half-eaten. [147] Furthermore, Turing had reportedly borne his legal setbacks and hormone treatment (which had been discontinued a year previously) "with good humour" and had shown no sign of despondency prior to his death. He even set down a list of tasks that he intended to complete upon returning to his office after the holiday weekend. [147] Turing's mother believed that the ingestion was accidental, resulting from her son's careless storage of laboratory chemicals. [148] Biographer Andrew Hodges theorised that Turing arranged the delivery of the equipment to deliberately allow his mother plausible deniability with regard to any suicide claims. [149]

Conspiracy theorists pointed out that Turing was the cause of intense anxiety to the British authorities at the time of his death. The secret services feared that communists would entrap prominent homosexuals and use them to gather intelligence. Turing was still engaged in highly classified work when he was also a practising homosexual who holidayed in European countries near the Iron Curtain. According to the conspiracy theory, it is possible that the secret services considered him too great a security risk and assassinated one of the most brilliant minds in their employ. [150]

It has been suggested that Turing's belief in fortune-telling may have caused his depressed mood. [146] As a youth, Turing had been told by a fortune-teller that he would be a genius. In mid-May 1954, shortly before his death, Turing again decided to consult a fortune-teller during a day-trip to St Annes-on-Sea with the Greenbaum family. [146] According to the Greenbaums' daughter, Barbara: [151]

But it was a lovely sunny day and Alan was in a cheerful mood and off we went. Then he thought it would be a good idea to go to the Pleasure Beach at Blackpool. We found a fortune-teller's tent[,] and Alan said he'd like to go in[,] so we waited around for him to come back. And this sunny, cheerful visage had shrunk into a pale, shaking, horror-stricken face. Something had happened. We don't know what the fortune-teller said[,] but he obviously was deeply unhappy. I think that was probably the last time we saw him before we heard of his suicide.

Government apology and pardon

In August 2009, British programmer John Graham-Cumming started a petition urging the British government to apologise for Turing's prosecution as a homosexual. [152] [153] The petition received more than 30,000 signatures. [154] [155] The Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, acknowledged the petition, releasing a statement on 10 September 2009 apologising and describing the treatment of Turing as "appalling": [154] [156]

Thousands of people have come together to demand justice for Alan Turing and recognition of the appalling way he was treated. While Turing was dealt with under the law of the time and we can't put the clock back, his treatment was of course utterly unfair and I am pleased to have the chance to say how deeply sorry I and we all are for what happened to him . So on behalf of the British government, and all those who live freely thanks to Alan's work I am very proud to say: we're sorry, you deserved so much better. [154] [157]

In December 2011, William Jones and his Member of Parliament, John Leech, created an e-petition [158] requesting that the British government pardon Turing for his conviction of "gross indecency": [159]

We ask the HM Government to grant a pardon to Alan Turing for the conviction of "gross indecency". In 1952, he was convicted of "gross indecency" with another man and was forced to undergo so-called "organo-therapy"—chemical castration. Two years later, he killed himself with cyanide, aged just 41. Alan Turing was driven to a terrible despair and early death by the nation he'd done so much to save. This remains a shame on the British government and British history. A pardon can go some way to healing this damage. It may act as an apology to many of the other gay men, not as well-known as Alan Turing, who were subjected to these laws. [158]

The petition gathered over 37,000 signatures, [158] [160] and was submitted to Parliament by the Manchester MP John Leech but the request was discouraged by Justice Minister Lord McNally, who said: [161]

A posthumous pardon was not considered appropriate as Alan Turing was properly convicted of what at the time was a criminal offence. He would have known that his offence was against the law and that he would be prosecuted. It is tragic that Alan Turing was convicted of an offence that now seems both cruel and absurd—particularly poignant given his outstanding contribution to the war effort. However, the law at the time required a prosecution and, as such, long-standing policy has been to accept that such convictions took place and, rather than trying to alter the historical context and to put right what cannot be put right, ensure instead that we never again return to those times. [162]

John Leech, the MP for Manchester Withington (2005–15), submitted several bills to Parliament [163] and led a high-profile campaign to secure the pardon. Leech made the case in the House of Commons that Turing's contribution to the war made him a national hero and that it was "ultimately just embarrassing" that the conviction still stood. [164] Leech continued to take the bill through Parliament and campaigned for several years, gaining the public support of numerous leading scientists, including Stephen Hawking. [165] [166] At the British premiere of a film based on Turing's life, The Imitation Game, the producers thanked Leech for bringing the topic to public attention and securing Turing's pardon. [167] Leech is now regularly described as the "architect" of Turing's pardon and subsequently the Alan Turing Law which went on to secure pardons for 75,000 other men and women convicted of similar crimes. [168] [169] [170] [171] [172] [173] [174] [175] [176] [177] [178]

On 26 July 2012, a bill was introduced in the House of Lords to grant a statutory pardon to Turing for offences under section 11 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885, of which he was convicted on 31 March 1952. [179] Late in the year in a letter to The Daily Telegraph, the physicist Stephen Hawking and 10 other signatories including the Astronomer Royal Lord Rees, President of the Royal Society Sir Paul Nurse, Lady Trumpington (who worked for Turing during the war) and Lord Sharkey (the bill's sponsor) called on Prime Minister David Cameron to act on the pardon request. [180] The government indicated it would support the bill, [181] [182] [183] and it passed its third reading in the House of Lords in October. [184]

At the bill's second reading in the House of Commons on 29 November 2013, Conservative MP Christopher Chope objected to the bill, delaying its passage. The bill was due to return to the House of Commons on 28 February 2014, [185] but before the bill could be debated in the House of Commons, [186] the government elected to proceed under the royal prerogative of mercy. On 24 December 2013, Queen Elizabeth II signed a pardon for Turing's conviction for "gross indecency", with immediate effect. [187] Announcing the pardon, Lord Chancellor Chris Grayling said Turing deserved to be "remembered and recognised for his fantastic contribution to the war effort" and not for his later criminal conviction. [160] [188] The Queen officially pronounced Turing pardoned in August 2014. [189] The Queen's action is only the fourth royal pardon granted since the conclusion of the Second World War. [190] Pardons are normally granted only when the person is technically innocent, and a request has been made by the family or other interested party neither condition was met in regard to Turing's conviction. [191]

In a letter to the Prime Minister, David Cameron, human rights advocate Peter Tatchell criticised the decision to single out Turing due to his fame and achievements when thousands of others convicted under the same law have not received pardons. [192] Tatchell also called for a new investigation into Turing's death:

A new inquiry is long overdue, even if only to dispel any doubts about the true cause of his death—including speculation that he was murdered by the security services (or others). I think murder by state agents is unlikely. There is no known evidence pointing to any such act. However, it is a major failing that this possibility has never been considered or investigated. [193]

In September 2016, the government announced its intention to expand this retroactive exoneration to other men convicted of similar historical indecency offences, in what was described as an "Alan Turing law". [194] [195] The Alan Turing law is now an informal term for the law in the United Kingdom, contained in the Policing and Crime Act 2017, which serves as an amnesty law to retroactively pardon men who were cautioned or convicted under historical legislation that outlawed homosexual acts. The law applies in England and Wales. [196]

Awards, honours, and tributes

Turing was appointed an officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1946. [81] He was also elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 1951. [8]

Turing has been honoured in various ways in Manchester, the city where he worked towards the end of his life. In 1994, a stretch of the A6010 road (the Manchester city intermediate ring road) was named "Alan Turing Way". A bridge carrying this road was widened, and carries the name Alan Turing Bridge. A statue of Turing was unveiled in Manchester on 23 June 2001 in Sackville Park, between the University of Manchester building on Whitworth Street and Canal Street. The memorial statue depicts the "father of computer science" sitting on a bench at a central position in the park. Turing is shown holding an apple. The cast bronze bench carries in relief the text 'Alan Mathison Turing 1912–1954', and the motto 'Founder of Computer Science' as it could appear if encoded by an Enigma machine: 'IEKYF ROMSI ADXUO KVKZC GUBJ'. However, the meaning of the coded message is disputed, as the 'u' in 'computer' matches up with the 'u' in 'ADXUO'. As a letter encoded by an enigma machine cannot appear as itself, the actual message behind the code is uncertain. [197]

A plaque at the statue's feet reads 'Father of computer science, mathematician, logician, wartime codebreaker, victim of prejudice'. There is also a Bertrand Russell quotation: "Mathematics, rightly viewed, possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty—a beauty cold and austere, like that of sculpture." The sculptor buried his own old Amstrad computer under the plinth as a tribute to "the godfather of all modern computers". [198]

In 1999, Time magazine named Turing as one of the 100 Most Important People of the 20th century and stated, "The fact remains that everyone who taps at a keyboard, opening a spreadsheet or a word-processing program, is working on an incarnation of a Turing machine." [9]

A blue plaque was unveiled at King's College on the centenary of his birth on 23 June 2012 and is now installed at the college's Keynes Building on King's Parade. [199] [200]

On 25 March 2021, the Bank of England publicly unveiled the design for a new £50 note, featuring Turing's portrait, before its official issue on 23 June, Turing's birthday. Turing was selected as the new face of the note in 2019 following a public nomination process. [201]

Centenary celebrations

To mark the 100th anniversary of Turing's birth, the Turing Centenary Advisory Committee (TCAC) co-ordinated the Alan Turing Year, a year-long programme of events around the world honouring Turing's life and achievements. The TCAC, chaired by S. Barry Cooper with Turing's nephew Sir John Dermot Turing acting as Honorary President, worked with the University of Manchester faculty members and a broad spectrum of people from Cambridge University and Bletchley Park.

Steel sculpture controversy

In May 2020 it was reported by Gay Star News that a 12-foot (3.7 m) high steel sculpture, to honour Turing, designed by Sir Antony Gormley, was planned to be installed at King's College, Cambridge. Historic England, however, was quoted as saying that the abstract work of 19 steel slabs ". would be at odds with the existing character of the College. This would result in harm, of a less than substantial nature, to the significance of the listed buildings and landscape, and by extension the conservation area." [202]

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    • Turing, Alan (1950). "Computing Machinery and Intelligence" (PDF) . Mind. 49 (236): 433–460. doi:10.1093/mind/LIX.236.433.
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      , Charles Babbage Institute, University of Minnesota. Metropolis was the first director of computing services at Los Alamos National Laboratory topics include the relationship between Turing and John von Neumann Imperial War Museums RKBExplorer Alan Turing's papers in the Royal Society's archives site maintained by Andrew Hodges including a short biography by Jack Copeland – contains scans of some unpublished documents and material from the King's College, Cambridge archive – University of Manchester Library, Manchester
  • Jones, G. James (11 December 2001). "Alan Turing – Towards a Digital Mind: Part 1". System Toolbox. The Binary Freedom Project. Archived from the original on 3 August 2007. – holds papers relating to Turing's time at Sherborne School recorded on openplaques.org archive on New Scientist at Find a Grave
  • 100 ms 4.7% recursiveClone 100 ms 4.7% Scribunto_LuaSandboxCallback::find 80 ms 3.8% Scribunto_LuaSandboxCallback::getExpandedArgument 60 ms 2.8% 60 ms 2.8% makeMessage 60 ms 2.8% type 60 ms 2.8% [others] 580 ms 27.4% Number of Wikibase entities loaded: 1/400 -->


    Alan TuringDecoding a Life

    Perhaps the reason why the life and legacy of Alan Turing (1912–1954) continue to fascinate is because they intersect with some of the great highs and lows of twentieth-century British history. From the heroic climax of his decryption of the Enigma cipher at Bletchley Park, to the tragedy of his prosecution for homosexuality and his subsequent suicide, Turing experienced the best and worst of the powerful machinations of the modern British state. Since his death, the reception of his legacy has highlighted a public effort to grapple with the prejudices of the past.

    Nowadays, Turing’s life and his major achievements are widely known. Having grown up in London and South England, he attended Sherborne School, an independent boarding school in Dorset. There is a famous anecdote about Turing’s first day, which coincided with the 1926 General Strike. Determined not to miss class, Turing cycled 63 miles unaccompanied—he was 13 years old at the time—all the way from Southampton to Sherborne. While he would later be remembered for his uncompromising intellect, he also never lost his athleticism. When he was at Bletchley, he would sometimes run the 40 miles back to London just to attend a meeting in the city, and in 1948 he tried out for the British Olympic running team.

    At Sherborne, however, Turing did not always dazzle. In his correspondence with Turing’s school friends, Turing’s later biographer, Andrew Hodges, noted that he had a “rather chequered career at Sherborne School.” His teachers sometimes complained that his inclination for maths and science led him to neglect his other subjects, and his headmaster once wrote to his parents to tell them that Turing “must be educated. If he is to be solely a Scientific Specialist, he is wasting his time at a public school.”

    That penchant for specialization, however, would later serve Turing well at King’s College Cambridge, where he graduated with first class honours in mathematics in 1934. The following year, he was elected as a Fellow of the college, aged just 22. The year after that, while still a PhD student, he published what has since become known as “the most influential maths paper in history,” entitled “On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem” (1936).

    In that paper, Turing formed the theoretical basis for a “universal computing machine,” which he proved would be capable of solving any computational problem, provided that the problem could be represented as an algorithm. All that was required was a machine with sufficient power to process and record the information. Although, at the time, Turing’s ideas were not widely understood beyond a few specialists, they set him up for his work in cryptography during World War II, which famously led to the decoding of Nazi Germany’s Enigma machine. Despite being one of the most significant breakthroughs of the war, however, Turing’s work remained classified for years. Some of his discoveries were not made public until as late as April 2012, since GCHQ continued to rely on them as part of their training modules, demonstrating just how important and far-reaching they were.

    The Colossus machine at Bletchley Park. By Unknown author – This file is from the collections of The National Archives (United Kingdom), catalogued under document record FO850/234.

    A memoir about Turing was written, however, not long after his death in 1954. It was penned by his mother, Sara Turing, who sought to highlight her son’s achievements without mentioning his classified war work. As well as describing his theoretical discoveries at Cambridge, the memoir drew attention to Turing’s work after the war, in which his “logical theory of a universal machine” took “concrete form in an actual machine”: the early computer. During this time, Turing also provided a foundational theory of artificial intelligence in his 1950 paper, “Computing Machinery and Intelligence,” in which he outlined his celebrated “imitation game,” later known as the Turing test.

    Although she provided a sensitive record of her son’s work, Sara Turing either did not realize or did not want to admit that her son’s death, which had occurred when he was just 41, had been suicide. She also neglected to mention his homosexuality, even though she knew that he was living as an openly gay man (illegally at the time). It would be left to Andrew Hodges in his later and more comprehensive biography, Alan Turing: The Enigma, published in 1983, to explore those matters in detail, while also revealing much more about Turing’s time at Bletchley. In this work, Hodges documented how Turing was convicted for “gross indecency” in 1952 and, to avoid a prison sentence, was forced to undergo a form of drug-induced castration, intended to reduce his libido. Following his conviction, Turing wrote a letter to his friend Norman Routledge, which he closed with a poignant, three-line reflection on the reception of his work:

    Turing believes machines think
    Turing lies with men
    Therefore machines do not think
    Yours in distress, Alan.

    TURING, Sara. Alan M. Turing. 1959.
    HODGES, Andrew. Alan Turing: The Enigma. 1983.

    If the faulty logic of this syllogism intentionally encapsulates the fickleness of the state’s betrayal of one of its former heroes, it also highlights the senseless, mechanistic operations of the state itself—yet another man-made machine not capable of thinking. The in-built prejudices of that machine would take more than 60 years to reprogram. Turing would not receive a pardon for the crime of “gross indecency” until 2013. It would take until 2016 for that pardon to be extended to others previously convicted of the crime.

    This shows just how revolutionary Hodges’ 1983 biography was in and of itself. Alan Turing: The Enigma raised its subject from obscurity at a time when his life had been all but forgotten, even hushed up. Reflecting on that biography in 2014, after Turing’s pardon, Hodges remarked that the reception of Turing’s legacy had been as dependent on gay liberation as it had been on Britain’s victory over Nazi Germany: “the 1968 social revolution, which Turing anticipated, had to happen before his story could be liberated.” If Turing produced seismic shifts in understanding in his life, in other words, then his legacy awaited similar shifts before it could be recognized. The biographic and bibliographic histories of Turing, therefore, speak to the changing landscapes within which history is made and remade, pointing to the need to examine the stories we tell and decode the ones that we don’t.

    Andrew Hodges’ biography of Turing appears in our catalogue Spring 2021.


    Alan Turing has been one of the greatest minds of the contemporary era. Turing&aposs life was by no means easy there were hardships,trials and tribulations that would shake him to the core. But no matter how much anyone tried to dampen or darken his spirits, the spark ignited by Turing&aposs short life was still something exceedingly brilliant to behold.

    Alan Turing was a lover of dreams,imaginations and fairy tales. Although his life was cut short, the story of Alan Turing remains, and ideas his mind Alan Turing has been one of the greatest minds of the contemporary era. Turing's life was by no means easy there were hardships,trials and tribulations that would shake him to the core. But no matter how much anyone tried to dampen or darken his spirits, the spark ignited by Turing's short life was still something exceedingly brilliant to behold.

    Alan Turing was a lover of dreams,imaginations and fairy tales. Although his life was cut short, the story of Alan Turing remains, and ideas his mind produced will live on for several more lifetimes to come. . more

    Alan Turing. say his name, remember him.

    What a touching and heartfelt biography of a man who should be taught about in school. We need to hear of his accomplishments and his name should be uttered with and included with the great mathematical minds. The fact that his works were kept a secret by the British government until 1970 is horrendous. I am so fortunate to have happened across this important part of history in this short but very well written, attention holding book.

    I come from an I.T background, so obviously I have heard his name before. I have read very briefly about the Turing test and Turing machines during my college days. But I didn&apost have a clear cut knowledge about his life or works. This book felt like the perfect way to be introduced to his life.

    Though the book doesn&apost delve deeply into his works, it clearly shows the life of a genius who deserved much, much better. A man who was ahead of his times, not just because of his grand ideas but also bec I come from an I.T background, so obviously I have heard his name before. I have read very briefly about the Turing test and Turing machines during my college days. But I didn't have a clear cut knowledge about his life or works. This book felt like the perfect way to be introduced to his life.

    Though the book doesn't delve deeply into his works, it clearly shows the life of a genius who deserved much, much better. A man who was ahead of his times, not just because of his grand ideas but also because of his deep understanding of life, death, himself and humanity.

    Honestly, in 36 pages I was only expecting the book to give me a surface-level knowledge of Turing, like what we expect from the illustrated, children's version of classic novels. But in 36 pages it gave me a life story that was heartbreaking to read. I will explore more books about Turing to read in detail about his works. However, the little I read from this book: Snow White and the poisoned apple metaphor, the way he was treated by his government for being a homosexual, how his contributions were kept hidden, his personal pains, his tragic life where the hamartia lies not with him but with the time he lived etc might stay with me forever. . more


    Alan Turing

    Alan Turing was a British mathematician. He made major contributions to the fields of mathematics, computer science, and artificial intelligence. He worked for the British government during World War II, when he succeeded in breaking the secret code Germany used to communicate.

    In 2019 the Bank of England announced that Turing would be featured on the new 50-pound banknote. The note was expected to enter circulation in 2021.

    Early Life

    Alan Mathison Turing was born on June 23, 1912, in London, England. He was educated at a top private school and then attended the University of Cambridge. He wrote a number of important papers while there. In 1936 Turing moved to Princeton University in the United States to study for a doctorate in mathematical logic. It was during that time that he introduced the theory for a computing device called the Turing machine. The Turing machine became the basis for all digital computers. Turing completed the doctorate in 1938.

    Code Breaker

    In September 1939 Great Britain went to war against Germany. During the war, Turing worked at the Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park. Turing and others designed a code-breaking machine known as the Bombe. They used the Bombe to learn German military secrets. By early 1942 the code breakers at Bletchley Park were decoding about 39,000 messages a month. At the end of the war, Turing was made an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.

    Computer Designer

    In 1945, after the end of World War II, Turing was recruited to create an electronic computer. However, the machine he designed was thought to be too difficult to build. A much smaller machine was built instead. Turing then moved to the University of Manchester. The world’s first working digital computer was built there in 1948. Turing designed an input-output system and the programming system for the computer.

    Final Years

    In 1952 Turing was found guilty of being a homosexual, which was a crime in Britain at the time. As a result, Turing had a criminal record, so he could no longer work for the government’s code-breaking center. He spent the remaining years of his life working at Manchester and on research on artificially creating living things.

    Turing was found dead in his bed on June 7, 1954, in Wilmslow, England. His death was ruled a suicide by cyanide poisoning, but no final conclusion could be made. His death may have been a suicide, an accident, or a murder.

    Turing Award

    Every year, beginning in 1966, a person who has made a great contribution to the field of computer science is awarded the Turing Award. The Turing Award is often referred to as the computer science equivalent of the Nobel Prize.


    Alan Turing

    Turing is famously known as being the father of modern computing and decoding messages that helped Britain win WWII. However, one aspect of his story is conspicuous in its absence. Alan Turing used mathematics to formulate a theory of biology which describes many of the beautiful patterns which we see throughout the natural world. See a popular science article for more about these patterns. for more about these patterns.

    This project introduces Turing’s ideas to primary school students, to show that mathematics can be used to understand the world. Turing’s description of patterns in nature is a visually striking subject that engages children’s mathematical drive and desire for science

    Patterns on animals can be described using numbers. By zooming in on a picture of an animal, the colours of the pixels can be represented by numbers (see left). Here darker shades of fur are indicated by higher numbers.

    Turing imagined that there are two chemicals inside an animals body and that their concentrations can be represented as a grid of numbers, performing certain mathematical calculations on the grid of numbers causes visual patterns to form.

    This mathematics can be broken down into an algorithm that uses just adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing, suitable for KS2 level arithmetic.


    Facts about Alan Turing

    • Turing&rsquos first day of Sherborne School coincided with the 1926 General Strike but he was so determined to make it in that he cycled 60 miles.
    • Turing was often spotted running along the riverside paths between Cambridge and Ely this is commemorated by an annual race, the Turing Relay which takes place along those tracks.
    • Alan Turing is credited with designing the first computer chess program in 1950, named Turochamp.
    • Turing was known for his eccentricity at Bletchley Park. His colleagues called him 'Prof' and his treatise on the Enigma was known as 'The Prof's Book'.

    Further information about the life of Alan Turing can be found here via the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.


    Watch the video: Alan Turing - TLDRDEEP