Alan's Turing 110 Today! Celebrating the pioneer of computer science.

Posted 23 June 2022 by Laura

On 23rd June 1912, Alan Turing was born. A pioneer in the realm of computer science, Turing's revolutionary concepts and ideas have changed the way we live our lives and the way we communicate with each other.

Alan Mathison Turing OBE FRS was an English mathematician, computer scientist, logician, cryptanalyst, philosopher, and theoretical biologist. In 1931 he won a scholarship to King's College, Cambridge. In 1936, at just 24, he published On Computable Numbers – which is now considered the foundations of computer science. He developed the concept of the ‘universal Turing machine’ – and transformed this revolutionary idea in to a practical plan for a real life, electronic computer.

“One day ladies will take their computers for walks in the park and tell each other, "My little computer said such a funny thing this morning"

Of course, technological innovation never stays still. And we think he'd be pretty impressed to see that literally everyone is taking their talking computers to the park with them. Clue yourself up with the best security know-how in this free guide to cloud identity and access management.

After two years at Princeton, developing ideas about secret ciphers, Turing returned to Britain and joined the government’s code-breaking department. Joined by other mathematicians at Bletchley Park, Turing rapidly developed a new machine, the Bombe, capable of breaking Enigma messages on an industrial scale.

A victim of 20th century attitudes

It doesn't seem right not to mention the sadness that surrounds his passing. in 1952, with homosexuality still illegal in the UK, he was prosecuted for being in a relationship with another man. Rather than a prison sentence, Turin accepted "hormonal treatment". It's hard to believe this was even an option in the 1950s – and even harder to believe that some countries and cultures still practice such harrowing treatments.

Of course, once outed, Turing was deemed a security risk and he was pulled off all government code-breaking department (now GCHQ) projects. He was quoted as saying at the time: “I shall shortly be pleading guilty to a charge of sexual offences with a young man. The story of how it all came to be found out is a long and fascinating one, which I shall have to make into a short story one day, but haven't the time to tell you now.” He was later found dead in an apparent suicide.

“Sometimes it is the people no one can imagine anything of who do the things no one can imagine.” 

There's absolutely no doubt that Turing had an inquisitive, incredible mind. And he had tenacity, bravery and courage to boot. A blue plaque commemorates his birth in a nursing home at Warrington Lodge, 2 Warrington Crescent, in Maida Vale. Photo credit: National Portrait Gallery, London

Alan Turing (1912-1954)