By Verity McPhail

Alan Turing: Great Minds

About him

Alan Turing was born on June 23, 1912, in London. In his seminal 1936 paper, he proved that there cannot exist any universal algorithmic method of determining truth in mathematics, and that mathematics will always contain undecidable propositions. That paper also introduced the "Turing machine. His papers on the subject are widely acknowledged as the foundation of research in artificial intelligence.

What happened during his life

In 1928 Alan met and became close friends with his new classmate Christopher Morcom. All what they ever talked about science and mathematics, often passing notes back in forth in class to share commentary on various puzzles. Christopher even invited Alan home to meet his mother, Mrs Morcom, who was an artist.

But in February of 1930 Christopher died unexpectedly of bovine tuberculosis, an illness which he had contracted years earlier from tainted milk. Deeply affected by the loss.

But of course, how would such a "machine" move from very simplistic and predictable mental operations, to a level of complexity that produced brilliant insights and surprising innovation?

What he discovered

One of his greatest accomplishes was in the creation of the Turing test, which was the initial attempt at determining if computers could actually 'think.' As a test, the Turing test begins to call into question what the difference is between human intelligence and artificial intelligence.

The test is a fairly simple construction. In one room is a participant and in two other rooms are a person and a computer. The participant communicates with the person and the computer via email (for example). The goal of the participant is to determine which is the computer and which is the human. The goal of the other participant is to convince the other one in the other room that he/she is human; however, the goal of the computer is to also convince that IT is the human. If the computer can successfully convince the other person it is the himan, then it displays intelligence (according to Turing).