Posted by: John | August 27, 2009

Celebrating the life of Alan Turing

This weekend is Manchester Pride. It is a time for LGBT people to celebrate diversity with our straight brothers and sisters. I’d like to highlight one thing.

The `Gay Village` has in its borders Sackville Park with a sitting statue of a man holding an apple. The statue depicts Mr Alan Turing.

Why? Turing is often considered to be the father of modern computer science. He provided an influential formalisation of the concept of the algorithm and computation with the Turing Machine. In 1999 Time Magazine named Turing as one of the 100 most important people of the 20th century for his role in the creation of the modern computer, stating: “The fact remains that everyone who taps at a keyboard, opening a spreadsheet or a word-processing program, is working on an incarnation of a Turing machine.” Without him it’s possible that you wouldn’t be reading this on a computer screen.

During his life he also broke the Nazi’s Enigma Code at Bletchley Park indirectly saving lives that wouldn’t have been saved without him.

So how did society repay him? By discriminating against him for his Gayness  after he `picked up`a 19-year old (he was 40 at the time) who subsequently burgled the house with an accomplice. Whatever your thoughts on this it IS legal in today’s framework though then ANY Gay relationship was illegal. Once the nature of the  `relationship` was established (perhaps Murray was in the process of blackmailing him and he needed to take decisive action?) the Police swiftly arrested them both.

Turing was prosecuted and given the choice – imprisonment OR  electro-shock treatment to reduce libido.  He chose the latter. By implication his contribution to science was halted and all contact with Bletchley was stopped.

Alan Turing took his own life by consuming a cyanide-laced apple (hence him holding the apple in the statue).

200px-Alan_Turing_Memorial_Closer

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Responses

  1. The Turing Machine is not a computer. A computer is a physical device. The Turing machine is some mathematics which describes a device which could exist in theory, and what that device in theory could calculate. No physical machine which directly modelled the Turing Machine was ever built.

  2. Sorry Matthew I truncated it too much. Have edited it plagiarising wikipaedia.


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