Alan Turing – Father of the Computer
You can thank Alan Turing for the computer you’re sitting at. Turing, renowned mathematician, cryptographer, and scientist launched himself into an incredible career in 1936 when he published a paper that became the basis for the modern day computer.
Born 23 June, 1912 Alan Turing was a precocious child. In primary school he excelled to the point of frustrating his teachers with his advanced knowledge and studies.
Alan Turing went on to be a key player in the breaking of the Nazi Enigma code during World War II. Despite being a British hero, Turing was prosecuted for being homosexual. He died of cyanide poisoning 7 June, 1954. His death was initially labeled a suicide, though experts have disputed this claim, saying that the original investigation was poorly handled.
Alan Turing was immortalized in the Academy Award-winning 2014 movie The Imitation Game starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley.
How Alan Turing Won World War II
Alan Turing was brought aboard the Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS) in 1938. He led the team of Hut 8 to crack the “unbreakable” Enigma code that the Germans used to encrypt all their communications.
Turing’s “Bombe machine,” a variant on other models that had made breakthroughs in cryptography during the War, successfully broke the Nazi code. The information obtained through the use of Turing’s machine helped the Allies win a number of important victories, such as their triumph at the Battle of the Atlantic.
Without Turing’s incredible code-breaking, experts speculate the War may have carried on two years longer than it did.
The Tragedy of Alan Turing
Alan Turing was arrested for who he was in 1952. During this time homosexuality was illegal in the U.K. Turing was convicted of “gross indecency” and given a choice between prison time or being “treated” with oestrogen injections to “cure” his homosexuality. Turing opted for the latter punishment that later left him impotent.
In 2013 Turing was granted a posthumous royal pardon by Queen Elizabeth II for his conviction. While the motion made an effort to recognize the government’s past failures and honour the late Turing’s achievements, some felt the symbolic act was too little too late. Benedict Cumberbatch, who played Turing in the movie adaptation of his life, was among the many voices demanding a royal pardon for the 49,000 other men and women prosecuted for being homosexual.
Though Turing’s punishment ended fourteen months prior to his death, some historians speculate the humiliation of the arrest and abuse drove Turing to poison himself. Other experts claim Turing took his punishment with a sense of humor and remained in high spirits throughout. They suggest that his poisoning and death may have been accidental.
Alan Turing at Cambridge
Alan Turing won a scholarship to King’s College, University of Cambridge, in 1931. There he studied Mathematics, earning first-class honours. His dissertation, the one that famously led to the modern computer, was groundbreaking. The paper earned him the position of Fellow at King’s College.
Turing went to Princeton to obtain his Ph.D. He returned to Cambridge in 1938 but his Junior Fellowship at King’s College was put on hold by his work in World War II. He left Cambridge in 1945 to continue his work developing electric computers.
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