|Born||23 Jun 1912|
|Died||7 Jun 1954|
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
ww2dbaseAlan Mathison Turing was born in Maida Vale, London, England, United Kingdom to Julius and Sara (née Stoney). His parents traveled to India on several occasions as his father was a member of the Indian Civil Service, during which time Turing and his older brother stayed with friends of the family in Hastings, England. At the age of six, he enrolled at St. Michael's school, where he began to show signs of above average intelligence. In 1926, he entered the prestigious Sherborne School in Dorset, England; teachers at Sherborne criticized that Turing was focusing too much on learning mathematics and science while not spending enough time on the classics, which the teachers thought was much more important. In 1928, at the age of 16, after reading Albert Einstein's work, he was able to figure out that Einstein was questioning Isaac Newton's laws of motion when Einstein did not explicitly say so in his text. He attended King's College in Cambridge, England between 1931 and 1934, and in 1935 he was elected a fellow at King's College after writing a dissertation on the central limit theorem. In the paper "On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem" of 1936, he proved that machines (ie. "Turing machines") were capable of any mathematical computation if the computations could be presented as algorithms. Between Sep 1936 and Jul 1938, he studied under Alonzo Church at the Institute for Advanced Study of Princeton University in New Jersey, United States, receiving his doctorate degree. Returning to Cambridge, he began working for the Government Code and Cypher School on a part-time basis starting from Sep 1938.
ww2dbaseThe European War began on 1 Sep 1939, and the United Kingdom declared war on Germany three days later. On 4 Sep, Turing reported to Bletchley Park in Bletchley, Buckinghamshire, England, where as a continuing member of the Government Code and Cypher School he contributed to the breaking of German codes. Specifically, he invented an electromechanical machine named the "bombe" which deciphered German Enigma code faster than its predecessor. The bombe machine tested all possible combinations of Enigma settings, keeping combinations that yielded fragments of logical text while discarding the others, yielding only a limited set of potential results for human analysts to study. The first bombe machine was installed on 18 Mar 1940, and through the war over 200 of them would be put in use. In Dec 1940, he broke the more complex German naval Enigma indicator system.
ww2dbaseIn 1941, Turing proposed to coworker Joan Clarke. The engagement was ended after a short time after Turing admitted to Clarke of his homosexuality.
ww2dbaseIn Jul 1942, Turing devised the "Turingery" technique to decipher messages encrypted by the German Lorenz cipher. In Nov 1942, he traveled to Washington DC, United States to work with the cryptanalysts of the United States Navy on building bombe machines and with Bell Labs engineers on developing secure speech devices. He returned to Bletchley Park in Mar 1943. Later in the war, he was transferred to nearby Hanslope Park where he, together with engineer Donald Bailey, designed a portable secure voice communications machine codenamed "Delilah"; Delilah machines were not adopted for practical use partly because the design was developed too late during the war to make a difference militarily.
ww2dbaseIn 1945, Turing was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire for his war time services, but descriptions of his achievements were purposefully vague, for the work done was still classified.
ww2dbaseBetween 1945 and 1947, Turing worked at the National Physical Laboratory where he worked on the design of the Automatic Computing Engine (ACE). On 19 Feb 1946, he presented a paper that revealed his design of a stored-program computer, a machine that had working potentials, but came under scrutiny from the government as it might suggest too much of his war time endeavors. He eventually became disillusioned and took a sabbatical starting in late 1947, and the first Automatic Computing Engine was built during his absence. In 1948, he joined the University of Manchester, where he, among other topics, studied artificial intelligence. He also began to write a chess program with colleague D. G. Champernowne; lacking a computer powerful enough to run the program, he simulated the program, taking about half an hour per move, losing a game to colleague Alick Glennie and rumored to have won a game against Champernowne's wife.
ww2dbaseIn 1952, Turing and the 19-year-old man Arnold Murray had a homosexual relationship, which was discovered. As it was illegal in the United Kingdom at that time, Turing was given a choice between imprisonment and chemical castration; he chose the latter. The conviction led to his security clearance being removed, thus he was unable to continue his work with cryptography.
ww2dbaseBetween 1952 and his death in 1954, Turing studied mathematical biology, focusing on the understanding of mathematical patterns such as Fibonacci numbers in plant structures (Fibonacci phyllotaxis).
ww2dbaseOn 8 Jun 1954, Turing's cleaner found him dead in his home in Wilmslow, Cheshire, England. Post-mortem examination found that he had died on the previous day from cyanide poisoning. It was speculated that an apple might had been used to deliver the poison. Official cause of death was suicide, but Turing's mother argued that Turing more likely ingested cyanide due to improperly-stored laboratory chemicals. He was cremated on 12 Jun 1954.
ww2dbaseThe Association for Computing Machinery's prestigious Turing Award was named after Alan Turing, who was said by some to be the "Father of computer science". In 1999, he was named one of the 100 Most Important People of the 20th Century by Time Magazine for his involvement in the creation of the modern computer. On 10 Sep 2009, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown publicly apologized for the treatment of Turing for his homosexuality.
Last Major Revision: Dec 2009
Alan Turing Timeline
|23 Jun 1912||Alan Turing was born in Maida Vale, London, England, United Kingdom.|
|4 Sep 1939||Alan Turing reported to Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire, England, United Kingdom.|
|18 Mar 1940||Alan Turing's first electromechanical machine, "bombe", was installed.|
|6 Sep 1941||Alan Touring met British Prime Minister Winston Churchill during Churchill's visit at the Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, England, United Kingdom.|
|19 Feb 1946||Alan Turing presented a paper that revealed his design of a stored-program computer, but he was scrutized by the British government as it contained too much secret technology developed during WW2.|
|7 Jun 1954||Alan Turing passed away in his home in Wilmslow, Cheshire, England, United Kingdom. The cause of death was cyanide poisoning; it was generally accepted to be a suicide, but his mother suspected it to be poor chemical storage procedures at his lab.|
|12 Jun 1954||Alan Turing's remains were cremated.|
|10 Sep 2009||British Prime Minister Gordon Brown publicly apologized for the treatment of Alan Turing for his homosexuality.|
|24 Dec 2013||Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom issued an unprecedented Royal Pardon expunging Alan Turing's 1952 indecency conviction.|
|15 Jul 2019||The Bank of England announced that Alan Turing will be on the United Kingdom's new £50 note.|
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Joachim von Ribbentrop, German Foreign Minister, Aug 1939