Father of Modern Computing, Mathematician and Cryptanalyst Alan Mathison Turing Pioneered Multiple Fields in Science ##

Early life and education

Alan Mathison Turing was born on 23 June 1912 in Maida Vale, London, to Julius Mathison Turing, a member of the Indian Civil Service, and Ethel Sara Turing (née Stoney). His father was stationed in India at the time and returned home on leave when Turing was born. Turing had one brother, John, who was four years his senior. In 1927, Turing's parents purchased a house in Guildford, and he stayed there during school holidays. Turing attended St Michael's, a primary school in St Leonards-on-Sea, from age six to nine. He then attended Hazelhurst Preparatory School in Frant, Sussex, until 1926.


In 1926, Turing was enrolled at Sherborne School, an independent boarding school in Dorset. His first day of school coincided with the 1926 General Strike, but Turing was so determined to attend that he rode his bicycle from Southampton to Sherborne, stopping at an inn overnight. At Sherborne, Turing showed remarkable ability in the studies he loved, solving advanced problems without having studied calculus. He later attended King's College, Cambridge, graduating with first-class honours in mathematics. While at Cambridge, he published his first paper, "Equivalence of Left and Right Almost Periodicity," in the Journal of the London Mathematical Society. After graduation, Turing was elected a Fellow of King's College, where he served as a lecturer. In 1936, he won the Smith's Prize, a prestigious award for the best performance by a British student in mathematics. In the spring of 1936, while working on the decidability of problems starting from Gödel's incompleteness theorems, Turing sent the first draft of his investigation to Max Newman. Alonzo Church published similar conclusions around the same time. In May, Turing finished and delivered his paper "On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem," which was published in the Proceedings of the London Mathematical Society. The paper was divided into two parts and published in November and December. In it, he reformulated Kurt Gödel's 1931 results on the limits of proof and computation, replacing Gödel's universal arithmetic-based formal language with formal and simple hypothetical devices.

Military service and code-breaking

During the Second World War, Turing worked for the Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park, Britain's codebreaking centre that produced Ultra intelligence. He led Hut 8, the section responsible for German naval cryptanalysis. He devised techniques for speeding the breaking of German ciphers, including improvements to the pre-war Polish bomba method, an electromechanical machine that could find settings for the Enigma machine. Turing played a crucial role in cracking intercepted messages that enabled the Allies to defeat the Axis powers in many crucial engagements, including the Battle of the Atlantic.

Later life and legacy

After the war, Turing worked at the National Physical Laboratory, where he designed the Automatic Computing Engine, one of the first designs for a stored-program computer. In 1948, he joined Max Newman's Computing Machine Laboratory at the Victoria University of Manchester, where he helped develop the Manchester computers and became interested in mathematical biology. He wrote on the chemical basis of morphogenesis and predicted oscillating chemical reactions such as the Belousov-Zhabotinsky reaction, first observed in the 1960s.

Turing was never fully recognised during his lifetime because much of his work was covered by the Official Secrets Act. He was prosecuted in 1952 for homosexual acts. He accepted hormone treatment, a procedure commonly referred to as chemical castration, as an alternative to prison. Turing died on 7 June 1954, aged 41, from cyanide poisoning. An inquest determined his death as suicide, but the evidence is also consistent with accidental poisoning.

Following a campaign in 2009, British prime minister Gordon Brown made an official public apology for "the appalling way he was treated". Queen Elizabeth II granted a pardon in 2013. The term "Alan Turing law" is used informally to refer to a 2017 law in the UK that retroactively pardoned men cautioned or convicted under historical legislation that outlawed homosexual acts.

Turing has an extensive legacy with statues 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.

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