Alan Turing


Alan Turing was influential in the development of computer science and provided a formalisation of the concept of the algorithm and computation with the Turing machine, playing a significant role in the creation of the modern computer.

Since 1966, the highest awards in the computing world are called the Alan Turing Awards and are equivalent to Nobel Prizes.

In the Second World War Turing worked at the code-breaking centre Bletchley Park where they constructed what was essentially the world's first computer. Turing's work led to the cracking of the German Enigma code. Until this time, large numbers of British ships were being sunk by German submarines (U boats). Having cracked the code, British forces gained information about the location and movements of the U boats and so were able to avoid/intercept them. Winston Churchill said that without Alan Turing's contribution the war would have gone on much longer.

Turing was also a pioneer in developing equations to describe Chaos Theory.

After the war, when he should have been showered with awards, he was sidelined as an embarassment because he was a gay man. In 1952 he was prosecuted and given the choice of prison or "chemical castration". He chose the latter and the side-effects so depressed him that he injected cyanide into an apple and killed himself by taking a bite from it. An apple with a bite out of it is the logo of Apple computers - is there a link?

The first working computer was the Colossus. If you go to Bletchley Park (which is now a museum) you can see it. When other countries claimed to have invented the world's first working computer, the British had to keep quiet because everyone working at Bletchley Park had signed the Official Secrets Act. They knew, but could not tell.

In 2009 Gordon Brown publicly apologised for the way Turing was treated.

A display about Alan Turing can be downloaded HERE

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