Alan Turing

I don’t think that people expect to hear the term Computer Science and Hero in the same sentence, but if I had to choose a hero, I can think of no one better than Alan Turing.

To me, Turing is one of the great geniuses of the Twentieth Century. His list of accomplishments were long. During World War II, he was instrumental in breaking German codes, for which he received the OBE. His Turing Machine was a major step towards what we call a “computer” today. His Turing Test is still used as a benchmark in Artificial Intelligence.

However, in his own time, Turing was persecuted for he sexual preference. In 1952, after a break in at his home, police discovered that Turing was a homosexual. At the time, Homosexuality was illegal in Britain, and Turing was convicted. He spent the last two years of his life under probation and forced chemical castration, finally taking his own life in 1954, by biting into a cyanide-coated apple.

I’ve always found it tragic that, because of the bigotry of others, not only was a great man wronged, but the world was robbed of what would have been Turing’s most productive years. Many of his ambitions were limited by the technology of his time. What wonders might this man have produced had he lived to see the integrated circuit or the microprocessor? I can not help but think that had Alan Turing lived to see the latter half of the 20th century, our world would be a little bit better today.

The Alan Turing Memorial, Manchester England

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