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Alan Turing Biography

Alan Turing Biography

Alan Turing was unadulterated genius. He was one of the principal reasons that World War II ended when it did. His cracking of the Enigma code was one of the turning points of the war. He also courted controversy due to his tryst with homosexuality and the mysterious manner of his death.
Anish Chandy
Last Updated: Dec 27, 2018
It is rumored that the Apple company's logo of the half bitten rainbow colored apple is Steve Job's way of paying Alan Turing a tribute. He was amongst one of the first persons to study artificial intelligence. He is considered to be one of the forefathers of computing logic.
Alan Turing was born on June 23rd 1912. His father worked for the British Empire in India. As a matter of fact, he was conceived while his parents were in India. His parents were insistent that Alan be a proper Englishman, so they moved back to London.
Alan Turing studied in Sherborne School, where he was constantly dogged by criticism from his teachers for his poor handwriting and English. The aptitude that he displayed in the numerical subjects was dismissed, because of the methods used by him to arrive at the solution. He graduated from school and joined Max Newman's advanced mathematics course.
This course was instrumental in polishing his rough edges. In this course, he successfully substituted Kurt Godel's languages by Turing machines. This was real proof that he could think several steps ahead of his contemporaries, because a Turing machine did not even exist. Even if it did it would have been practically unworkable.
Alan Turing received his PhD. from Princeton University in 1938. His dissertation for his PhD. was the introduction of the concept where hyper computation was possible using Turing machines. These were extremely complex problems that could not be solved using any known algorithm.
He astounded the academic world again in 1940, when he developed a chess program. The only hitch was that there was no computer powerful enough to run the program.
It was a year earlier, in 1939, when he became a hero in the eyes of the rest of the world. The German U-boats were at the forefront of their World War II offensive stratagem. It was the Enigma machine installed on the U-boats that allowed them to coordinate seamlessly with each other. Scientists had been trying for years to crack the enigma code.
Turing had joined the Code and Cypher School, run by the British government. He successfully led the team that eventually cracked this code. It changed the course of the war. He was publicly feted by Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and hence, he was no longer Britain's best kept secret.
Later, he turned his attention to morphogenesis. In 1952 he published ""The Chemical Basis of Morphogenesis." He wanted to study the presence of Fibonacci numerical series in plants. This study of his, pioneered the way for theories that are used even today, to study pattern development.
It was not all work and no play for him; he was obsessed with the marathon. Students of his works have drawn comparison between the loneliness that is associated with being a runner and a scientist.
One aspect of his life that has always evoked controversy is his homosexuality. He was arrested in 1952 for violation of the existing homosexuality laws in England. His only defense was that he did not think that he had done anything wrong. Unsurprisingly, he was found guilty; his punishment was to take estrogen injections for a year.
There have been a number of accolades showered upon him; he was honored with the Order of the British Empire recognition. In Sackville Park, Manchester, a memorial statue of him was erected in 2001. The Alan Turing Institute was initiated by UMIST and Manchester University, in 2004. A plaque was unveiled at his residence for his fiftieth death anniversary.
On October 28, 2004, a bronze statue of his, sculpted by John W. Mills, was erected at Surrey University. It portrays him carrying his books across the campus. The Turing award was instituted by the Association for Computing Machinery. It is awarded annually to the person for the most significant contribution to the world of computing.
Alan Turing died in 1954, because of cyanide poisoning. He bit into a cyanide laced apple and dropped dead. Widely believed to be a suicide, his mother however reckons that it was because of his carelessness that the cyanide got into the apple.