Hardware

Alan Turing: Exhibition offers rare glimpse of the man behind the enigma

The exhibition also offers a glimpse of Alan Turing the man through a collection of personal belongings provided by his family.

Alan Turing's nephew, Sir John, said the family hoped the personal belongings would show the human side of the mathematician.

"You hear about his eccentricities, about chaining mugs to the radiators and cycling through the locality with his gas mask on to ward off hay fever. It can paint a picture of somebody who is perhaps too weird to want to get to know," he said.

"What this new exhibition is trying to do is to share some of the more human side of Alan Turing's nature, to balance out the picture," he said.

Above is a school report for Turing aged 18, which unsurprisingly paints a picture of an academically gifted student.

His maths teacher praises his skill in the subject, saying, "if he does not get flustered and lapse back into slip-shod work he should do very well". The only subject where Turing drew much criticism was in English, where his teacher complained, "His reading is too deliberate."

In a prescient statement, Turing's headmaster summed up the student, by saying, "He seems to be going on very well indeed."

Photo: Nick Heath/TechRepublic

 

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Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic UK. He writes about the technology that IT-decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

4 comments
sboverie
sboverie

What was not mentioned in the article but also applies for today is that Turing was gay. The British viewed that as a perversion that could be fixed by chemical castration. The irony was that a grateful nation honors him for his major contribution to cracking the enigma code and then turn around and prosecute him as a criminal. His death by cyanide was ruled suicide although some think it was an accident. I am not gay, but I believe that homosexuals are a result of biology than choice. I have met many gay people who said that they were always gay from childhood or birth. They also state that if it was a choice that it would be stupid one considering how marginalized and bullied they are.

Proportal
Proportal

I am glad Turing is getting the recognition he deserves, but I am always a bit saddened that in the discussions more isn't made of Tommy Flowers who, although working under the direction of Turing and Max Newman designed and built Colossus - and personally financed it. Things would have taken a great deal longer if the guys at Bletchley hadn't had the expertise of Flowers to turn their maths theorems into mechanical reality. They are all giants in their field and should all be recognised.

jag022054
jag022054

When I was in school 40 years ago they barely mentioned Alan Turring or John Von Neumann. The history of computing focused on the engineers like Eckert and Mauchly, or the business men like Thomas Watson. Obviously these guys made big contributions, but without Turring and Von Neumann computers would be the size of office buildings and take a small army to program.

emdublu
emdublu

... because of what happened at Bletchley Park during the war, all those involved were sworn to secrecy and the UK Government kept very quiet.as well:) I'm not surprised they were never mentioned. Only in recent years have people learnt more about their contribution. Worth looking at www.bletchleypark.org.uk if you are interested.