Alan Turing: "One of the most important scientists who ever lived"

Posted on by Mike Evans

225px-Alan_Turing_photoShortly after my piece on Alan Turing on February 25 I received a welcome note from Patrick Sammon, producer of a new documentary on the famous wartime codebreaker. Research and development for a feature-length documentary is underway with an international production team including Turing's preeminent biographer, Dr. Andrew Hodges. Funding is currently being lined up for the film, with a goal for completion in mid-2012, to coincide with the centenary of Turning's birth. Patrick says:

"Turing was the British WW II code breaker and father of computer science who faced persecution for being gay. In his short life, Turing profoundly changed our world. Historians believe that his WW2 code breaking work helped save millions of lives and shortened the war by two years. He also founded three new scientific fields: computer science, artificial intelligence, and morphogenesis. In 1952, he was arrested by British police for having a relationship with another man and eventually was forced to undergo chemical castration to "fix" his sexual orientation. Two years after his arrest, Turing killed himself at age 41. Turing is one of the most important scientists ever, yet his tragic story and lasting legacy remain largely unknown. This film will change that fact."

The Touring Documentary site contains a wealth of information on the father of computing, including a number of video links that are well worth watching. I rather like this quote from one of Turing's letters to a friend shortly after his arrest in 1952. He thought that in future the bigots of the day would say:

"Turing believes that machines think.

"Turing lies with men. 

"Therefore machines do not think

We can safely say with the benefit of hindsight that the score was Turing 1, Bigots 0.

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