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Alan Turing Biography | Tragically fated mathematician, computer inventor, artificial intelligence pioneer, WWII hero, and persecuted homosexual

Alan Turing Biography | Tragically fated mathematician, computer inventor, artificial intelligence pioneer, WWII hero, and persecuted homosexual

Alan Turing Biography | Tragically fated mathematician, computer inventor, artificial intelligence pioneer, WWII hero, and persecuted homosexual


English mathematician, Alan Turing (Alan Mathison Turing) anticipated the programming of the first computers with his “Turing machine”. During World War II, he deciphered the German machine Enigma.

How the Enigma machine works: where when we type a word/sentence on the board (keyboard), the sentence will be reflected in the reflector and then scrambled by 3/4 rotators, each rotator has 26 contacts on both sides.

Alan Turing’s Short Biography – Born June 23, 1912 in Paddington, Alan Mathison Turing is a famous English mathematician. A gifted and precocious student, his genius was quickly spotted by his relatives and his teachers: he would have learned to read on his own in three weeks. His passion for studies is even covered by the press, the 13-year-old boy having cycled 90 km to reach his school on a day of general strike. Passionate about science and mathematics, Alan Turing decided to take this path when a friend of his, Christopher Morcom, a brilliant science student, died of bovine tuberculosis. He wants to pay him homage.

Alan Turing’s work at university until 1938 has today become benchmarks in computer science. Visionary, he is the creator of the “Turing Machine”, an experiment of thought and concepts of programming which will take shape with the creation of the computers, a few years later. During World War II, Alan Turing was hired to research the cryptographies of the Nazi Enigma machine, which he carried out successfully. After the war, the scientist worked on the first computer models called Manchester Mark I. Alan Turing then stirred up passions by exposing his theory on artificial intelligence. He publishes “Can a machine think?”. In this book, he presents his philosophy of the “intelligent machine”. He defines it by a test which has remained famous, the Turing test, which simulates a conversation between a man and a machine. In 1951 he was admitted to the Royal Society and the following year Alan Turing created a chess program, but no machine was powerful enough to read it!

Read also: Enigma Machine That Cracked the Nazi Secret Code

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Turing’s machine

On May 28, 1936, Alan Turing proposed in an article entitled “On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem” a concept which allows a machine to interpret a code and therefore to perform calculations of different types.

What is called the “Turing machine” is then only a precursor theoretical model of computer science and not a complete realization. This visionary application will be the basis for computer development and algorithmic operation. The first programmable computer will only be built during World War II and named “Colossus”.

Homosexuality against nature? Some say that homosexuality is unnatural. Is it true ?

Enigma decrypted by Alan Turing

In 1938, Alan Turing was recruited by the British government and specialized in cryptanalysis. Within the secret services, the scientist is responsible for deciphering the Enigma machine used by the German army. His mission and that of his team is to improve the “Bombe”, a Polish machine which allows to quickly test different combinations, in order to obtain the decoding keys.

Classified as a military secret under the name Operation Ultra, it was only recently that Alan Turing’s role in WWII was revealed. Some also advance the fact that Alan Turing by decoding Enigma would have saved two years after the end of the war.

Homosexual behaviors of Alan Turing

Turing’s homosexual mores bother a lot in the prudish England of the Cold War, especially as the secret services, for which he still works no doubt, are wary of confidences on the pillow he could give to a trained Russian spy to that.

Following a dark history of burglary (of which he is initially the victim), Turing is condemned for his sexual practices. To escape prison, he must undergo chemical estrogen castration treatment, one of the side effects of which is to develop his breasts.

What do u mean by persecuted?

Persecuted is to harass or punish in a manner designed to injure, grieve, or afflict specifically : to cause to suffer because of belief.

Accused of “indecent practices in the company of another man”.

In 1952, British justice gave Turing the choice between two years in prison and treatment with female hormones amounting to chemical castration.

But the last two years of his life precipitated a tragic end. An affair with a young man leads him to court where he pleads guilty to “repeated indecent practices in the company of another man”. Considering that he has far too much work to go to prison, he accepts the alternative offered to him: chemical castration.

They can do whatever they want with his body he thinks, his mind, his software, will remain intact… “But, under the effect of hormones, here he is transformed into what he imagines to be a almost woman. What if the mind and the body have a deeper connection than he thinks? What if he was wrong?

Read also: Maria Walanda Maramis | Indonesian Hero Fought for Women’s Rights

Death of Alan Turing

In 1952, Alan Turing was the victim of a burglary. The police investigation links this case to a former lover of the scientist.

Prosecuted in 1952 for homosexuality, his homosexuality is then incriminated andhe chose, to avoid prison, chemical castration by taking estrogen. 

It is worth to him to be condemned to the chemical castration during one year. His body and his mind undergo significant changes during this time. 

In 1953, after having followed this heavy treatment, he resumed his scientific work.

He committed suicide by poisoning on June 7, 1954 in Wilmslow, he bites an apple that he had previously soaked in a cyanide solution, and he was found dead the next day with foam on his lips.

He was found dead from cyanide poisoning on June 8, 1954 in the bedroom of his home in Wilmslow. This gesture would have been inspired to him by Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs, where in a scene the wicked witch dips an apple in the poisoned broth. Some also say that the Apple logo, a small bitten apple, would be a nod to Turing’s tragic fate.

According to the official thesis, Alan Turing began to eat an apple soaked in cyanide. Some see it as a symbol, the logo of the Apple company. Others around him remain convinced that his death was an accident due to negligence, with Turing using cyanide for his experiments.

Turing’s biographer, Andrew Hodges, hypothesized that Turing would have chosen this mode of ingestion precisely in order to leave his mother the possibility of believing in an accident, knowing that apple seeds naturally contain cyanide but in quantity. too weak, however, to have a toxic effect. Some have noticed the link between his alleged method of suicide and the film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, of which he had particularly appreciated the scene where the witch poisons the apple, to the point of regularly humming the verses uttered by it: ” Let’s plunge the apple into the cauldron, so that it is impregnated with poison”.

Queen Elizabeth II granted Turing a posthumous pardon in 2013

Queen Elizabeth II recognized him as a war hero and posthumously pardoned him in 2013.

Posthumously, Queen Elizabeth granted Turing royal pardon for his conviction on December 24, 2013… almost 60 years after his death!

With the posthumous royal pardon granted to the mathematician Alan Turing (1912-1954), hero of the Second World War convicted in 1952 for homosexuality, the British government belatedly repented, but at least it did so clearly and courageously. Fifty-nine years is a long wait for an injustice to be repaired against the man who, by breaking the codes of German submarines, had allowed the Allies to win the Battle of the Atlantic.

A film traces the life of Alan Turing

Since the 2000s and the revelation of Alan Turing’s role during World War II, tributes for the scientist have multiplied. Thus, in 2014, the Norwegian director Morten Tyldum conceived the film Imitation Game with Benedict Cumberbatch in the role of Alan Turing. Other films, but also plays and various works salute the incredible life of Alan Turing.

Sources: PinterPandai, Scientific American, BBC, University of St Andrews – Scotland, Harvard University

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

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