Alan Turing at Age 16
Alan Turing at Age 16

Through my Intro to Digital Media module in college I learned of the history of the development of computers and digital media. There were many figures of importance talked about from Douglas Engelbart to our very own George Boole however one in particular interested me, Alan Turing, who is considered to be ‘the father of modern computer science’. Born in 1912, he was a wonder kid from early on, at 13 we has enrolled in Sherbourne School, however his first day at school coincided with the 1926 General Strike in Britain but Turing was so eager that he cycled over 60 miles from Southampton by himself and stayed overnight at an Inn to make sure he made it to school! At 16 he may have even extrapolated the Great Albert Einsteins work on Newtons Laws of Motion but the text was never made explicit.

He is probably most famous for ‘The Turing Test’ which can be summed up as..

“a human judge engages in a natural language conversation with two other parties, one a human and the other a machine; if the judge cannot reliably tell which is which then the machine is said to pass’

During World War 2, Turing went into cryptanalytics and was the leading participant in the breaking of German Ciphers which was referred to as the Cryptoanalytics of the Enigma  which allowed the western allies to read substantial amounts of German Morse coded radio messages to gain vital information which saved countless lives. However he was not a popular man, believing that he was better than all others working on the Enigma and he was widely regarded as a bit of an eccentric, he even chained his mugs to the radiator pipes for fear of somebody stealing it… Turing was a jack of not all, but many trades and was a very competent and promising athlete, for important meetings in London, he would run the 40 miles from Bletchley and was capable of world-class marathon standards! In 1945 he was awarded an OBE for his wartime services.

The Manchester Mark 1 Computer, one of Turings creations after the war.
The Manchester Mark 1 Computer, one of Turing’s creations after the war.

In 1952  he began a relationship with Arnold Murray and not long after his house was burgled. Murray told Turing the burglar was an acquaintance of his so Turing reported this to the police, however during the allegation, Turing admitted to having a sexual relationship with Murray and both were charged with gross indecency as Homosexual acts were illegal in the United Kingdom at the time. Following and Internet campaign, in 2009, the British Prime-Minister Gordon Brown gave a public apology for the way Alan Turing was treated and in 2013 Queen Elizabeth II granted him a posthumous pardon.

On the 8th of June 1954, Turing was found dead by his housekeeper. The cause of death was found to be cyanide poisoning, with a half eaten apple thought to be the means of distributing the poison. It was regarded as an act of suicide however there are other theories out there as to exactly how and why Turing died such as cyanide inhalation from an apparatus for gold electroplating spoons as part of his own work.

Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing in 'The Imitation Game'
Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing in ‘The Imitation Game’

Now, in 2015 you can hardly watch a movie or television show that won’t feature Benedict Cumberbatch and sure enough, guess who plays the character of Alan M. Turing in ‘The Imitation Game’ Benedict Cumberbatch. The 2014 film won an Oscar for best writing and adapted screen play. Anyway, I’m off to watch the film for myself so chat to ye soon..

Advertisements