Alan Turing is considered the father of modern computer science. He worked as a cryptographer, decoding codes in one of the British government’s top-secret location at Bletchley Park.
Military historians say that Turing’s work in breaking the German’s Enigma code machine during World War II shortened the war by two to three years, aside from saving lives and averting more catastrophe from happening.
Early Life of Alan Turing
Alan Mathison Turing was born in London on June 23, 1912. Early on in his life, he showed his interest in science and scientific genius was evident. In his early teens, he encountered Einstein’s work which greatly interested him. Later, he even extrapolated Albert Einstein’s queries of Isaac Newton’s Laws of Motion. In 1931, he entered King’s College, Cambridge University, where he focused on mathematics and re-creating the work of other scientists.
Alan Turing Machine
At one point, he started to develop a digital computer dubbed the “Turing machine.” The key was to instruct the computer properly and then for it to perform the tasks. He believed that an “algorithm” could be developed to solve any problem.
German’s Enigma Code Machine
During the 1920s, the Germans created the “Enigma code” machine, which led them to believe that their coded messages concerning military and other top secret operations were beyond being decoded. The machine, which resembled a typewriter, was capable of doing millions of calculations in milliseconds, and the secret codes that controlled them were regularly changed everyday.
In his 1936 paper on computable numbers, Turing reformulated Kurt Goedel’s 1931 results on the limits of proof and computation.
Turing undertook the construction work of a special-purpose electronic machine all the way. In January 1943, he headed up a team of scientists whose specific goal was to try to break Enigma code. To do so, the team developed a computer – called the “Colossus” comprising 1,500 vacuum tubes.
Improved models were later installed. Experts today think that a total of 10 Colossus machines were built. The fact that it helped break the Enigma code was the breakthrough that instantly became the greatest secret of the Second World War. This meant that the Allies knew exactly what the Germans planned to do before they did it, an utmost important as it helped the Allies decide where to invade on D day.
Alan Turing after World War II
After the war, Turing worked on various machines that would replace or supersede human intelligence, the inspiration said to be the loss of a young love in his life. He wrote a paper in 1950 now known as the “Turing Test,” which evaluates a machine’s intelligence, a test still considered the standard by which mechanical intelligence is evaluated.
His homosexuality was not an issue during the war, but in general, it was looked down on after the war as the political and emotional landscape changed with the development of Great Britain’s alliance with the United States and the development of the Cold War.
Colossus Computer and Turing
He might have been feted and revered for what he did, and yet, at the age of 42, his heart broken and his mind in disarray – due to his homosexuality – he ended his life and committed suicide.
Thanks to Turing, the Colossus machine was one of the world’s earliest programmable electronic digital computers. Today Turing’s computer designs, as he described them in his day, are still what computer specialists utilize.
His acquaintances included John von Neumann, Ludwig Wittgenstein and Alonso Church.