Alan Mathison Turing OBE FRS was an English mathematician, computer scientist, logician, cryptanalyst, philosopher and theoretical biologist. Turing was highly influential in the development of theoretical computer science, providing a formalisation of the concepts of algorithm and computation with the Turing machine, which can be considered a model of a general-purpose computer. He is widely considered to be the father of theoretical computer science and artificial intelligence.
Turing has an extensive legacy with statues of him and many things named after him, including an annual award for computer science innovations. He appears on the current Bank of England £50 note, which was released on 23 June 2021 to coincide with his birthday. A 2019 BBC series, as voted by the audience, named him the greatest person of the 20th century.
Alan Turing, a pioneering mathematician, logician, and computer scientist, was born on June 23, 1912, in Maida Vale, London, England. He is widely regarded as one of the most influential figures in the development of modern computing and artificial intelligence. Turing's groundbreaking work laid the foundation for the digital age and had a profound impact on various fields.
Turing's early education showed signs of his exceptional intellect, and he later studied mathematics at King's College, Cambridge, where he made significant contributions to mathematical logic. In 1936, he published his famous paper titled "On Computable Numbers," where he introduced the concept of a theoretical computing machine, now known as the Turing machine. This theoretical model became a fundamental concept in the field of computer science, as it demonstrated that any computation could be performed by a machine if it could be described algorithmically.
During World War II, Turing played a crucial role in breaking the German Enigma code, a feat that significantly contributed to the Allied victory. He worked at Bletchley Park, a British codebreaking center, where he and his team developed the bombe, a device used to decipher encrypted messages. His work on codebreaking remained classified for many years, but it had a lasting impact on cryptography and information theory.
After the war, Turing continued his pioneering work in computing and artificial intelligence. He developed the Automatic Computing Engine (ACE), one of the earliest stored-program computers, and explored the idea of machine intelligence and the Turing Test, a criterion for determining a machine's ability to exhibit intelligent behavior indistinguishable from that of a human.
Despite his groundbreaking contributions, Turing faced personal challenges, including societal prejudice due to his homosexuality, which was criminalized in the United Kingdom at the time. In 1952, he was convicted of "gross indecency" and subjected to chemical castration as an alternative to imprisonment. Tragically, Turing died on June 7, 1954, in Wilmslow, Cheshire, from cyanide poisoning, and his death was ruled as suicide.
Alan Turing's legacy lives on as a trailblazer in the fields of computer science, artificial intelligence, and cryptography. His work laid the foundation for the digital era and continues to inspire generations of scientists and engineers. In 2013, Turing received a posthumous royal pardon for his unjust treatment, recognizing his enduring contributions to science and humanity.
Alan Turing's vision can be summarized as a relentless pursuit of unlocking the potential of computation to solve complex problems and simulate human intelligence. His groundbreaking work on the theoretical concept of the Turing machine laid the foundation for modern computing, envisioning a world where machines could perform any computation that could be described algorithmically. Turing's vision transcended the limitations of his time, advocating for the limitless possibilities of machines to tackle mathematical challenges and automate decision-making processes.
Moreover, Turing's vision extended to the realm of artificial intelligence. He envisaged machines that could exhibit intelligent behavior indistinguishable from that of humans, proposing the Turing Test as a benchmark for evaluating machine intelligence. His vision was rooted in the belief that machines, when properly designed and programmed, could replicate human thought processes and contribute to solving complex problems across various domains. Alan Turing's enduring legacy lies in his unwavering commitment to pushing the boundaries of what machines could achieve, paving the way for the digital age and inspiring generations of scientists and innovators to realize his visionary dreams.
Recognition and Awards
- Alan Turing | Google Scholar
- Alan Turing | Mathematics Genealogy Project
- On axiomatic systems in mathematics and theories in physics | University of Cambridge
- The Turing Guide | Oxford University Press
- Alan Turing | The British Library
- Alan Mathison Turing. 1912–1954 | Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society
- Computer Scientist: Alan Turing | Time
- Alan Turing: The codebreaker who saved 'millions of lives' | BBC News Technology
- 'Alan Turing law': Thousands of gay men to be pardoned | BBC News
- The Alan Turing Internet Scrapbook | Turing.org
- London Blue Plaques | English Heritage
- The Scientific Tourist In London: #17 Alan Turing's Birth Place | Nature London Blog
- Sir John Dermot Turing | Bletchley Park
- Plaque unveiled at Turing's home in St Leonards | Hastings & St. Leonards Observer
- St Leonards plaque marks Alan Turing's early years| BBC News
- Alan Turing – Towards a Digital Mind: Part 1 | System Toolbox
- Guildford Dragon NEWS | The Guildford Dragon
- Alan Turing Archive | Sherborne School, Dorset
- Alan Turing OBE, PhD, FRS (1912–1954) | The Old Shirburnian Society
- The Alyson Almanac: A Treasury of Information for the Gay and Lesbian Community | Alyson Publications
- Alan Turing: The Enigma | Vintage
- Tekhnema: Journal of Philosophy and Technology | American University of Paris
- Poor Imitation of Alan Turing | New York Review of Books
- The Sherborne Formula: The Making of Alan Turing | Vivat
- Alan Turing: The Enigma | Princeton University Press
- Alan Turing | Time Magazine's Most Important People of the Century
- Alan Turing and the 'Nature of Spirit' | oldshirburnian.org.uk