Alan Mathieson Turing was a pioneering computer scientist, mathematician, logician, code breaker and theoretical biologist. He was highly influential in theoretical computer science and is widely considered to be the ‘father’ of artificial intelligence.
During the Second World War Turing worked at the Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park, Britain’s codebreaking centre. He was in charge of Hut 8, the section responsible for German Naval cryptanalysis. He devised a number of techniques for breaking German cyphers. Turing played a pivotal role in cracking intercepted messages from German that were instrumental in enabling the Allies to defeat the Nazis in many crucial engagements throughout the war, which is said to have reduced the war by up to four years.
His work was able to determine settings for the Enigma Machine, the machines which protected military and governmental communications and he devised The Turing Machine – a hypothetical machine which can imitate a computer’s algorithm using a length of tape and a table of rules which enables the machine to simulate a computer algorithm’s logic. This led to the development of the Turing Test, which determines a computer’s capacity for intelligence.
Alan Turing was influential to the development of technology and artificial intelligence as it is understood today. A truly inspirational mind, we celebrate the man behind the enigma.
You can read more about Alan Turing and the work of the GC&CS in these titles:
Bletchley Park: The Secret Archives by Sinclair McKay published by Aurum Press Alan Turing: The Enigma: The Book That Inspired the Film The Imitation Game by Andrew Hodges published by Vintage.