Alan Turing

Facts and Information

Early Life

Alan Mathison Turing was born on the 23rd June 1912 in Paddington, London. He had an older brother, John. His parents lived in India until 1926 when his father retired from the Indian Civil Service, when Alan was 14 years old. In this time he had started attending Sherborne School, a well known academy, at the age of 13.

However, Alan's inclination towards maths and science did not earn him respect from many of his teachers at Sherborne, as they preferred to teach the traditional way, focusing on English. However, he continued to excel in the studies he loved and even grasped some of Einstein's studies at a mere 16.

Turing studied at King's College, Cambridge, as an undergraduate between 1931-34.

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Work in WW11

From September 1938 Turing worked at the GC&CS, the British Codebreaking facility. He reported to Bletchley Park to tackle the problem of the German 'enigma code' at the outbreak of war in 1939. Within weeks of arriving he had designed a machine called a bombe that would instantly decrypt the messages.

Aided by co-workers Gordon Welchman, Hugh Alexander and Stuart Milner-Barry, the bombe was eventually able to crack enigma. It is suspected that this achievement shortened the war by at least two years.

Alan was awarded an OBE at the end of the war, but the reason why was kept secret for the best part of thirty years. Enigma was still described as 'unbreakable' until the 1970s. The mission Hut 8 had been working on was so secret the government made them burn their notes.

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Death

Turing died on 7th June 1954. He committed suicide via biting into an apple laced with cyanide. This was because he was gay - which was a crime at that time - and was forced to either go to prison or undergo hormonal treatment. However, he did at one point propose to female coworker Joan Clarke to cover up his 'crime'. Turing chose the treatment,which was designed to stop sexual urges but instead caused side effects like depression and trembling. He committed suicide two years later.

The Queen gave Alan Turing a royal pardon and public apology in 2012.

The Imitation Game - Official Trailer - The Weinstein Company

Portrayal In Media

There have been a few films that are based around the story of Alan Turing, such as Enigma in 2001, starring Dougray Scott and Kate Winslet, portraying not Alan but a similar young genius working to crack the same code. However, one of the most high profile productions portraying Turing is The Imitation Game (trailer above), starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan and Keira Knightley as Joan Clarke.
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Quotes

  • "We can only see a short distance ahead, but we can see plenty there that needs to be done."
  • "A computer would deserve to be called intelligent if it could deceive a human into believing it was human."
  • "A man provided with paper, pencil and rubber, and subjected to strict discipline, is effectively a universal machine."
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