Alan Turing

Today is the 98th anniversary of the birth Alan Turing, one of most brilliant minds of the 20th Century.  Born on was born on 23rd June 1912 in London, England, he is known as one of the fathers of modern computing, though his ideas for programmable computers were ahead of their time.

He is widely know for the test which bears his name – the Turing Test – which Alan Turing designed to test for machine intelligence. In the test, a person communicates in natural language via keyboard and screen with two hidden respondents, one human, one computer.  If the person cannot tell which of the respondents is the machine, the computer is said to have passed the Turing test.  So far no computer has consistently passed the test.

Turing is also famous for his work during the Second World War at Bletchley Park and the breaking of the German naval Enigma code.  In collaboration with Gordon Welchman, he designed an electromechanical machine called a “bombe” that eliminated unworkable Enigma settings, leaving only a few to be investigated by analysts.  He went on to make a several further contributions to the war effort in different areas.

Regrettably, in 1952, Turing was arrested, tried and convicted for homosexuality which at that time was a criminal offence.  As result, and despite his wartime record, his security clearance to work for the government was revoked.  Sadly, in 7 June 1954, he committed suicide, eating an apple laced with cyanide.

Happy Birthday, Alan.