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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Britain´s greatest code breaker / Alan Turing

Alan Turing ( represents the team that ) decisively changed the course of World War II. He is among the greatest scientists of the 20th century, if not all times. Alan Turing is the inventor of computers, programming and artificial intelligence. All the computers in operation today, including the billions of smartphones are in fact Turing Machines, the computer Turing invented conceptuallly. His thoughts were revolutionary. Computers in his days, were people. People, computing.

The British of today are working hard on clearing their conscience on how they treated Alan Turing. In 2009 Gordon Brown said that "he is sorry for the "appalling" way World War II code-breaker Alan Turing was treated for being gay." And now there is this documentary called "Britain's greatest codebreaker" based on the biography of Turing and sessions Turing had with a psychiatrist in Manchester, Franz Greenbaum.

In my opinion Alan Turing could only have flourished in Britain because of his eccentricity. What would have happened with Turing if he had to work at a patent-office like Einstein? Asa Briggs, one of the codebreakers at Bletchley Park mentioned that Turing often came to work with his pajamas under his jacket. That described the culture in that group, I suppose. One of the most important things in Turings private life was the loss of his best friend, the love of his. He never got over it although in Bletchley Park he became friends with a woman, the only woman codebreaker on the team. He even proposed to marry her but Turing called it off, because he wanted to live an honest life. That was his first mistake...

His second mistake was going to the police and accusing a male prostitute of stealing 50 pounds. The police did not care about the 50 pound robbery at all, they could book a professor for gross indecency. Turing now lived in a world where, it seems, nothing out of the ordinary was accepted. Society really wanted him. His sentence was that he could choose prison or enforced body change. He chose the body change, which was an experimental chemical castration. His security privileges were removed as well, meaning he could not continue to work for the UK Government Communications Headquarters. The drug, a synthetic version of female hormones, had a catastrophic effect on his body.

Alan Turing sadly ended his life in 1954.

See also:
- Alan Turing documentary

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