Who is Alan Turing?

6 min read
Who is Alan Turing?

Alan Turing was an English mathematician who is considered to be the father of computer science and artificial intelligence. In addition to his accomplishments in theoretical mathematics, which include creating a formalized theory of basic algorithmic concepts such as “algorithm” and “computation,” he was also a cryptographer and the creator of the Turing Machine, which defined the notions of “algorithm” and “undesirability.” He also made prominent fundamental contributions to other areas of mathematics. However, Turing is probably best known for his work as a code breaker in Britain during World War II. He devised an electromechanical machine called the Bombe that cracked Nazi Germany’s Enigma code and saved many thousands of lives by helping to defeat Hitler in several critical battles during the war.

His Life Story

Born in London on June 23, 1912, Alan Mathison Turing were an English mathematician, logician, cryptanalyst, and computer scientist. He was a key member of the team that cracked Nazi Germany's Enigma Code, helping to end World War II and allowing Allied troops to invade Normandy. After two years at Cambridge University, he published a paper that became an international sensation and gave rise to a branch of mathematics now known as Turing machines. In 1951, he published another seminal paper: Computing Machinery and Intelligence, which proposed questions such as Can machines think? The essay introduced a test for artificial intelligence – still used today – known as The Turing Test. That same year, he also received treatment for homosexuality after having been convicted of gross indecency. His 1952 conviction saw him chemically castrated. Two years later, he died from cyanide poisoning; it is thought he committed suicide. His death remained a mystery until 2014 when it was confirmed that he had taken his own life as a result of being persecuted by British authorities over his sexuality. Queen Elizabeth II apologized to Turing's family in 2009 for how they were treated by police.

Was he gay?

One of the most frequently asked questions about Alan Turing is whether he was gay. This question often comes up in film, TV, and theater productions. These portrayals are based on testimony given by people who knew him during his time at Bletchley Park, which suggests that he did have a relationship with Murray when stationed there. His biographer attributes Turing's willingness to admit to homosexual relations as being due to a desire to show himself loyal and patriotic. However, it should be noted that while homosexual acts were illegal in Britain at that time, they were not illegal for consenting adults aged 21 or older (i.e., above homosexual age of consent) but an equivalent offense under a statute specifically relating to homosexuality was then extant; and as several other gay men were prosecuted for sexual offenses committed with youths around the same period.

Did he kill himself?

As you may have heard, Alan Turing, computer scientist, and hero of modern mathematics killed himself after being subjected to humiliating chemical castration for homosexuality. Sadly, a mind like his was lost at such a young age that we will never know what else he could have discovered. That someone so brilliant and so vital would kill himself over his sexuality is heartbreaking. The world has been robbed of brilliance by societal ignorance; if only people were more open-minded to differences they might not always be so quick to take them away from us prematurely. One wonders how many other geniuses are out there today who are paying with their lives simply because they aren’t quite conventional enough in their thought patterns or personas. Let’s all strive to embrace individuality instead of shunning it in favor of social norms. Only then can we hope to discover what other great minds our planet has yet to give birth to.

What was his Legacy

He spent much of his career doing classified work on code-breaking, creating a machine that could crack Enigma codes and help win World War II. For many years after his death, he was also known as the father of computer science. His legacy lives on in various ways. Some believe that absent Turing's famous hypothetical question (Can machines think?), our modern conception of artificial intelligence might have turned out very differently; indeed, it might never have developed at all. Others credit him with founding formal logic (he wrote a paper called On Computable Numbers With an Application to Entscheidungsproblem -- decision problem – which focuses on provability). And regardless of what you think about artificial intelligence or computer science or even mathematics, there’s one thing we can all agree upon: Without his contributions during WWII to decrypting enemy messages, millions more people would have lost their lives.

Do we still use his machines today?

In the mid-20th century, a British mathematician named Alan Turing made a series of innovations that were key to the development of modern computing. The Turing machine, an abstract illustration of how an algorithm works, is credited with being one of the most influential concepts in computer science.

Computers would not exist without his contributions; he revolutionized computer science and changed how we understand computation and artificial intelligence. No matter how you feel about him, there’s no denying that Alan Turing made lasting contributions to our world. Some of today’s computers are still based on ideas originally proposed by Turing in 1936.

Turing's theory of Artificial Intelligence.

Although computing devices were invented decades earlier, no one had yet proposed a theory on Artificial Intelligence (AI). Computer scientist Alan Turing put forward his theory on AI in 1950. His theory has since inspired many forms of modern AI research. AI and its offshoots have led to enormous developments across technology, with machines becoming smarter than ever before. From self-driving cars to personal assistants that do our bidding when we ask, there is no doubt computers are heading towards self-sufficiency and intelligence. In his paper Computing Machinery and Intelligence, he proposed an imitation game that he used as an attempt to define human intelligence using arbitrary rules.

What is the Turing machine, and how does it work?

A Turing machine is an abstract machine that manipulates symbols on a strip of tape according to a table of rules. Despite its simplicity, a Turing machine can be adapted to simulate the logic of any computer algorithm and is particularly useful in explaining the functions of a CPU inside a computer. The Turing machine was described by Alan Turing in 1936 and became the foundation for theories about computing and computers.

A Turing machine consists of a “tape” divided into cells that move back and forth through the machine, a “head” that controls the writing and reading functions on the tape, and a set of rules used to determine what symbol should be written in each cell depending upon the current contents of the cell and other conditions. The head moves back and forth across the tape as it scans each symbol to determine what action to take based on the rule table. The machine's state also changes depending upon what symbol it is scanning; for example, if it scans an empty cell then one rule may apply, but if it scans a filled cell then another rule applies. When the head reaches either end of the tape, then it will usually wrap around onto the other side (as if it were an endless loop), or stop altogether.

What is The Turing Test

In 1950, just two years after the first modern computer was constructed, computer scientist Alan Turing proposed a way to measure whether a machine could be considered intelligent. This test has come to be known as the Turing Test, and in the decades since it's become an industry standard for testing artificial intelligence.

Turing suggested an interrogator try to convince a human subject (in other words, him) and a computer that they were talking to another person - without being told in advance which was which. If neither could reliably tell if they were interacting with another person or machine after five minutes of questioning then both would be considered equally intelligent.

Today, it is fair to say that there are few individuals more important to our modern understanding of mathematics and computing than Alan Turing. The original concept for the Turing Machine, as well as his ideas about algorithms and artificial intelligence, have informed generations of mathematicians (and computer scientists), including those who are building the AIs that may someday change the future. His contributions to wartime code breaking efforts have also left a lasting legacy that continues to impact science and technology today. All told, Alan Turing was not only one of the greatest minds of the 20th Century but also a man whose vision changed the world.

ilyas mutlu


Follow