Born and raised in England, Alan Mathison Turing is a British logician and mathematician whose greatest contribution is the birth of Computer Science, aside from his brilliance in the fields of Mathematics, Logic, and Cryptanalysis. He created “The Bombe”, also known as “Victory”, which was made to crack the code of the Enigma in order to intercept the daily communication made by the Nazi Party. With the Bombe, Alan Turing initiated the kickoff on the field of artificial intelligence. As it turns out, it takes a mysterious man to crack a mysterious machine, and aid the fall of the vilest leader who ever lived.
Alan Turing studied Mathematics at University of Cambridge and was elected to a fellowship at King’s College by 1934. His study On Computable Numbers, with an Application to Entscheidungsproblem was recommended for publication because Turing’s methodology is a significant element that completes the science of computing. The Entscheidungsproblem basically arrived at the idea that there is no specific system of arithmetic that arrives at an effective decision method. With this idea, Turing, along with other mathematicians who ended up with the same result, established a formal system that was aimed to reduce the tasks of human computers to a great extent. This extensive research and progress of the Entscheidungsproblem led to the principal concepts of the Turing machine, eventually onto the basic principles of a digital computer.
In the summer of 1938, Turing joined the Government Code and Cypher School. Later in the same year, he was relocated to the headquarters of the said organization at Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire. Thanks to a team of mathematicians led by Marian Rejewski, the wiring of the Enigma machine was decoded and by the time Turing and his team moved in to Bletchley, their job then was to break every cryptic message day in, day out – that is roughly two messages every minute round the clock, equivalent to 84,000 messages per month. For months, Alan Turing’s co-mathematicians tried to break a code manually, while Turing focused on building a machine – the Bombe, the Turing machine that is a significantly improved version of a machine initially made by the Polish called “Bomba”, to decrypt the messages faster.
This work cut the war short by two years, as taught. And although his brilliance saved millions of lives, he could not save himself from primitive stereotyping.
Aside from the haunting racial laws and acts implemented by many in Europe at the time, it is no secret that a lot more of disturbing ideas are plaguing the country, and that includes the fact that homosexuality was a crime. Being a homosexual remained illegal in Britain until 1967 because homosexuality was considered to be a magnet of blackmail, hence, all homosexual men were considered a threat to national security.
Now, think about this: Alan Turing broke the German’s Enigma, then got convicted for being a closeted gay man. This does not make this a great equation then, does it? Alan Turing created the machine that diminished the war time by at least two approximate years, and yet he was arrested for being a threat to the national security.
He lost the job he had after the Bletchley project because of that, then was made to take medications to “neutralize hormones”, or in a much more profound take, “chemically castrated”. Alan Turing took his life in June 1954 by taking in at least four ounces of cyanide. His body was found dead in his home, with a bitten apple nearby. Authorities first believe that the apple was laced with cyanide, but then upon investigation, it appears that Turing took the cyanide first, then bit the apple to perhaps neutralize the taste.
He was 41. And in honor of the brilliant mathematician, let us do the math. . .
It took 71 years for his brilliance to be fully acknowledged. Alan Mathison Turing was granted a Royal Pardon in December 2013 – seventy-one years after developing the code-breaking machine at Bletchley Park in July of 1942. The man who is a pivotal element in putting an end to World War II and saved many lives, some of which reached double his age when he took his life, was convicted…
For being gay.
This is one of the hero stories that we can only hope to not happen again, at least the part where he did not get the respect he deserve when he was still living. Wishfully thinking too, the kind of story that we can only hope to should not have happened at all.