Alan Turing OBE FRS

British  mathematician, logician, cryptanalyst, and computer scientist Alan Turing OBE, FRS was Born June 23rd, 1912 in Maida Vale, and grew up in Hastings. He displayed great individuality from a young age. At 14 he went to Sherborne School in Dorset. Turing read mathematics at Cambridge, he was a completely original thinker who shaped the modern world, and assisted in the development of the innovative Manchester computers. He was also highly influential in the development of computer science, providing a formalisation of the concepts of “algorithm” and “computation” with the Turing machine, which played a sinificant role in the creation of the modern computer. Turing is widely considered to be the father of computer science and artificial intelligece.He also became interested in mathematical biology and wrote a paper on the chemical basis of morphogenesis, and predicted oscillating chemical reactions such as the Belousov–Zhabotinsky reaction, which were first observed in the 1960s.

On 4 September 1939 the day after Britain declared war on Germany, Turing reported to Bletchley Park where he worked for the Government Code and Cypher School (GCCS)the forerunner of GCHQ, Britain’s codebreaking centre. For a time he was head of Hut 8, the section responsible for German naval cryptanalysis. Turing led a team whose ingenuity and intellect were turned to the task of breaking German ciphers. He devised a number of techniques for breaking German ciphers and One of Turing’s main contributions whilst there was to invent the Bombe, an electromechanical machine used to find the daily settings of the Enigma machine. as a result he played an absolutely vital part of the British war effort and It is without question that his efforts helped shorten the war significantly, saving the lives of millions of people.He was also a remarkable British hero who helped create the modern world. Now known as the father of computer science, his inventions contributed greatly to the groundwork for the modern computer.

After the war he worked at the National Physical Laboratory, where he created one of the first designs for a stored-program computer, the ACE. In 1948 Turing joined Max Newman’s Computing Laboratory at Manchester University, where he assisted in the development of the Manchester computers and invented a type of theoretical machine now called a Turing Machine, which formalized what it means to compute a number. Turing’s importance extends far beyond Turing Machines. His work deciphering secret codes drastically shortened World War II and pioneered early computer technology.He was also an early innovator in the field of artificial intelligence, and came up with a way to test if computers could think – now known as the Turing Test. Besides this abstract work, he was down to earth; he designed and built real machines, even making his own relays and wiring up circuits. This combination of pure math and computing machines was the foundation of computer science.

Despite his invaluable help during World War II AND all his other achievements, he was treated badly. A burglary at his home led Turing to admit to police that he was a practicing homosexual, at a time when it was illegal in Britain. This led to his arrest and conviction in 1952 for ‘gross indecency’. He was subsequently forced to choose between imprisonment and chemical castration. He chose chemical castration (treatment with female hormones) as an alternative to prison. As a result of his conviction he lost security clearance and was not allowed to continue his work, and Sadly On 8 June 1954 Turing committed suicide just over two weeks before his 42nd birthday.

Luckily since Turing’s birth, attitudes have changed towars homosexuality and The US-based Association of Computing Machinery has given The Turing Award annually since 1966. This is the computing world’s highest honour for technical contribution to the computing community and considered equivalent to the Nobel prize.On 10 September 2009, following an Internet campaign, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown also made an official public apology on behalf of the British government for “the appalling way he was treated”. Despite his valuable contributions Turing did not receive the recognition and plaudits that he deserved while alive, However this has now been redressed and there is now A fully functional replica of the Bombe which can be found today at Bletchley Park, along with the excellent Turing exhibition. Turing has also been immortalised on film in The Imitation Game starring Benedict Cumberbatch.


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