Alan Turing: The Once Obscure Father of Computer Science

Alan Turing: Math Genius & Father of Computer Science
Meet Alan Turing, the legendary code-breaker today regarded as the father of computer science and artificial intelligence.
Birthplace: Maida Vale, London
Innovation: The Bombe, An Electromechanical Machine
Industry: Technology
Success: The Turing Machine
Influence: Computer Machinery and Intelligence
Legacy: The Bank of England’s £50 Note
Honors: The Turing Award Given by the Association for Computing Machinery
Let the coding begin! 🤖
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Alan Turing, regarded as the father of computer science and artificial intelligence
Updated date:
Jan 11, 2023

Born to Code

What's it like to come up with the concept of a modern computer after never having seen one? 

Or to go from being a code-breaking war hero to a criminal in the blink of an eye?

Before Benedict Cumberbatch's performance in The Imitation Game, you might not have known who Alan Turing was. However, World War II could have turned out differently without him. Alan Turing believes that computing is the future.

Alan Turing, a genius who was born to code

But who was Alan Turing, and why is he revered so much?‍

Early Life of Alan Turing

It was on June 23, 1912, that Alan Mathison Turing was born in Maida Vale, London. During this period, social status, religion, and loyalty to the British Empire played an important role. Alan Turing’s family was in the fold as well.

Early Life of Alan Turing

Alan's father, Julius Mathison Turing (1873-1947), was the son of a priest, the Rev. John Robert Turing, from a Scottish trading family with a baronet in the Netherlands. Julius Turing was on leave from the Indian Civil Service (ICS) at Chatrapur, the Madras Presidency, and Odisha state in India.

Alan Turing: A baronet is a hereditary title bestowed by the British Crown

Ethel Sara Stoney-Turing (1881-1976), Turing's mother and Julius' wife, was the daughter of Edward Waller Stoney, chief engineer of the Madras Railways. The Stoneys were a Protestant Anglo-Irish aristocratic family from County Tipperary and County Longford, respectively, and Ethel had spent most of her upbringing in County Clare.

Julius and Ethel were married on October 1, 1907, in Dublin's Batholomew's Church on Clyde Road. Julius' employment with the ICS took the family to British India, where his grandfather was a general in the Bengal Army.

Turing has an older brother named John (the father of Sir John Dermot Turing, 12th Baronet of the Turing baronets).

However, both Julius and Ethel desired that their children be raised in the United Kingdom, so they relocated to Maida Vale, London, where Alan Turing was born on June 23, 1912, as noted by a blue plaque on the outside of the home where he was born, presently the Colonnade Hotel.

Alan Turing’s blue plaque on the outside of his birth home, presently the Colonnade Hotel

Julius Turing's civil service commission was still active, and together with Ethel,  they left their two kids with a retired Army couple. They travelled between Hastings, England, and India during Alan’s childhood.

In Hastings, Alan  Turing stayed at Baston Lodge, Upper Maze Hill, St Leonards-on-Sea, which is now commemorated with a blue plaque. The plaque was presented on the centennial of Turing's birth, June 23, 2012.

The Hasting’s blue plaque was presented on the centennial of Alan Turing's birth

Alan Turing lived in Guildford during the school holidays when his parents bought a property there in 1927. A blue plaque also marks the location.

It was evident during Alan Turing’s early life and childhood that he had the genius that he would later display prominently, but we're talking about the 1920s here. At 12, he became obsessed with using the most common objects in nature with the least amount of energy waste.

He spent years pursuing the answers to life's most fundamental problems and the inner workings of the human mind. Science was an extracurricular love for Turing, where he could completely express his creative thoughts and learn about the world's natural beauties.

Alan Turing’s Education

Turing's parents enrolled him from the age of six to nine at St Michael's, a primary school located at 20 Charles Road in St Leonards-on-Sea. St. Michael's headmistress praised his talent, saying, "I've had clever boys and hardworking boys, but Alan is a genius."

Alan Turing then attended Hazelhurst Preparatory School, a private school in the Sussex village of Frant (now East Sussex), from January 1922 until January 1926. Alan Turing developed an interest in mathematics and science throughout the following four years.

Alan Turing developed an interest in mathematics and science

At the age of 13, Alan enrolled at Sherborne School, a residential private school in the Dorset market town of Sherborne, where he stayed at Westcott House. The first day of class coincided with the British General Strike of 1926. Still, Turing was so anxious to attend that he cycled his bicycle alone 60 miles (97 kilometers) from Southampton to Sherborne, stopping overnight at an inn.

Turing's innate ability for mathematics and science did not garner him the respect of particular Sherborne instructors, whose definition of education emphasized the classics. 

"I hope he will not fall between two stools. If he is to continue at a public school, he must seek to get educated. If he is to be just a Scientific Specialist, he is wasting his time at a public school," his Sherborne headmaster wrote to his parents.

Alan Turing’s education demonstrated amazing talent in Sherborne School

Despite this, Alan Turing demonstrated amazing talent in his favorite subjects, solving complex problems in 1927 without having learned basic mathematics.

Victor Beuttell, one of Alan’s friends, was the son of the inventor, Alfred Beuttell. During a visit to the Beuttell family home, Turing began chatting to Alfred about his work on his new invention, the K-ray Lighting System.

The Author of The Man Who Knew Too Much (2006), David Leavitt pointed out: 

"When he asked Turing to help him find a formula for determining what should be the proper curvature of the glass used, the boy not only came up with one immediately but pointed out that the thickness of the glass would also affect the illumination - something no one else had noticed. Beuttell gratefully made the necessary changes gratefully, and the lighting system was soon put into production."

Christopher Morcom

Alan Turing developed a close friendship with fellow student Christopher Collan Morcom (13 July 1911 - 13 February 1930), who has been characterized as Turing's first love at Sherborne. Alan Turing and Christopher Morcom’s connection inspired Alan Turing's future endeavors. Still, it was cut short by Christopher Morcom's death in February 1930 from complications of bovine tuberculosis, which Morcom developed after drinking infected cow's milk some years beforehand.

Alan Turing and Christopher Morcom’s connection inspired Alan Turing's future endeavors

Turing was devastated by the incident, and he dealt with his loss by concentrating even harder on the scientific and mathematical issues he had discussed with Morcom. Morcom's mother, Frances Isobel Morcom (née Swan), received this letter from Turing:

Frances Isobel Morcom received this letter from Alan Turing

Turing's contact with Morcom's mother lasted long after Morcom died, with her sending presents and him writing letters, usually on Morcom's birthday. A day before Morcom's third death anniversary (February 13, 1933), Alan Turing wrote to Mrs Morcom:

“I expect you will be thinking of Chris when this reaches you. I shall too, and this letter is just to tell you that I shall be thinking of Chris and of you tomorrow. I am sure that he is as happy now as he was when he was here. Your affectionate Alan.”

Some have argued that Morcom's death caused Turing's atheism and materialism. Apparently, at this stage in his life, he still believed in notions like a spirit separate from the body and may survive death. In a subsequent letter to Morcom's mother, Turing wrote:

“Personally, I believe that spirit is really eternally connected with matter but certainly not by the same kind of body... as regards the actual connection between spirit and body I consider that the body can hold on to a 'spirit', whilst the body is alive and awake the two are firmly connected. When the body is asleep I cannot guess what happens but when the body dies, the 'mechanism' of the body, holding the spirit is gone and the spirit finds a new body sooner or later, perhaps immediately.”

University and Work on Computability

Alan Turing continued to study as an undergraduate at King’s College, Cambridge

Alan Turing continued to study as an undergraduate at King's College, Cambridge, from 1931 to 1934, where he received first-class honors in mathematics. At the age of 22, Alan Turing was elected a Fellow of King's College in 1935 on the strength of a dissertation in which Turing proved a version of the central limit theorem.

King’s College 1935 Class Picture with Alan Turing

In 1922, Jarl Waldemar Lindeberg had previously proved this version of the theorem, unknown to Alan Turing. Despite this, the committee thought Turing's approaches were novel and deemed the study worthy of consideration for the fellowship. According to Abram Besicovitch's report for the committee, if Alan Turing's work had been published before Jarl Lindeberg's, it certainly would have been "an important event in the mathematical literature of that year."

In 1933, he began dabbling in mathematical logic, where he faced a problem that had yet to be solved: Is there a mechanism for determining whether a mathematical assertion is true?

Alan Turing’s Turing Machine was the blueprint for today's modern computers

Alan Turing showed his Turing Machine to answer such a question. Turing's paper On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, was published in 1936. A machine that could calculate anything that needed to be calculated. Alan Turing’s machine was the blueprint for today's sophisticated computers. It was published in two sections in the journal Proceedings of the London Mathematical Society, the first on November 30th and the second on December 23rd. Alan Turing came up with the concept without ever seeing one. 

Turing Machines

Turing reformulated Kurt Gödel's 1931 discoveries on the limitations of proof and computing in this article, replacing Gödel's universal arithmetic-based formal language with the formal and simple hypothetical Turing machines. In 1928, German mathematician David Hilbert proposed the Entscheidungsproblem (decision problem).

Alan Turing demonstrated that his universal computing machine could do any imaginable mathematical computation if it could be represented as an algorithm. Turing then demonstrated that there is no solution to the choice problem by first showing that the halting problem for Turing machines is undecidable: it is not viable to decide algorithmically if the Turing machine invented will ever halt. This paper has been named the most influential mathematical paper in history.

Lambda Calculus

Despite Turing's proof being published shortly after Alonzo Church's similar proof using his lambda calculus, Turing's technique is far more approachable and intuitive. It also incorporated the concept of a universal machine (later known as a universal Turing computer), assuming that such a machine could accomplish the duties of any other computing machine (as Church's lambda calculus did).

According to the Church-Turing thesis, Turing computers and the lambda calculus calculator are capable of calculating anything that can be computed. According to John von Neumann, Turing's paper was responsible for the core notion of the modern computer. Turing machine models remain a prominent focus of research in computing theory today.

From September 1936 until July 1938, Turing spent most of his time at Princeton University, where he was a Jane Eliza Procter Visiting Fellow in his second year. He researched cryptology and created three of four stages of an electro-mechanical binary multiplier in addition to his pure mathematical efforts.

In June 1938, he received his PhD from Princeton's Department of Mathematics; his dissertation, Systems of Logic Based on Ordinals, introduced the concept of ordinal logic as well as the concept of relative computing, in which types of Turing machines are augmented with so-called oracles, allowing the study of problems that universal Turing machines cannot solve. John von Neumann was interested in hiring him as a postdoctoral assistant, but he returned to the United Kingdom.

Alan Turing’s Career and Research

When Alan Turing returned to Cambridge in 1939, he attended Ludwig Wittgenstein's lectures on the foundations of mathematics.

The lectures were rebuilt verbatim from students' notes, including interjections from Alan Turing and other students. Turing and Wittgenstein debated and disagreed, with Turing supporting formalism and Wittgenstein arguing that mathematics invents absolute truths rather than discovering them.


Alan Turing was a crucial figure in deciphering German ciphers at Bletchley Park during WWII. Asa Briggs expressed his awe of Alan Turing’s genius talents.

Career and Research of Alan Turing

Alan Turing began working part-time at the Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS), a British codebreaking organization, in September 1938. Together with Dilly Knox, a veteran GC&CS codebreaker, he focused on the cryptanalysis of the Enigma encryption machine.

Soon after the July 1939 conference in Warsaw, at which the Polish Cipher Bureau disclosed the British and French knowledge of the wiring of the Enigma machine's rotors and their technique of decrypting Enigma machine signals, Turing and Knox devised a more comprehensive solution.

The Polish system was based on a risky indicator procedure that the Germans were likely to adjust, which they did in May 1940. Turing's technique was more generic, employing crib-based decryption for which he created the bombe's functional specification (a refinement of the Polish Bomba).

Alan Turing and Bletchley Park

Turing reported to Bletchley Park, the GC&CS's wartime station, on September 4, 1939, the day after the United Kingdom declared war on Germany. Alan was obliged to sign the Official Secrets Act, as were all others who came to Bletchley, in which he pledged not to reveal anything about his work at Bletchley, with serious legal consequences for violating the Act.

Specifying the bombe was Alan Turing's first cryptanalytic breakthrough during the war

Specifying the bombe was the first of Turing's five critical cryptanalytic breakthroughs during the war. The others were: deducing the German navy's indicator procedure; developing a statistical approach known as Banburismus for making much more efficient use of the bombes; creating a process known as Turingery for working out the cam settings of the wheels of the Lorenz SZ 40/42 (Tunny) cipher machine; and, close to the end of the war, the development of a portable secure voice scrambler coded as Delilah at Hanslope Park.

Due to the difficulties of counterfactual history, determining the specific impact of Ultra intelligence on the war is difficult. However, according to official war historian Harry Hinsley, this work shortened the European war by more than two years and saved over 14 million lives.

Before moving to Hut 8, Alan Turing worked here in 1939 and 1940.

At the war's end, the government sent a note to all individuals who had worked at Bletchley Park, informing them that the Official Secrets Act's code of silence would not expire with the war but would endure permanently. This means Alan Turing’s cryptanalysis of the Enigma and how Turing’s efforts to win the war using decoding intelligence acquired from Nazi Germany's codes may not be known to the public now or till his grave.

Although King George VI granted Turing the title of Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1946 for his wartime efforts, the government kept his work secret for many years.

Alan Turing made a unique addition to the subject by applying statistical approaches to maximize the trial of different possibilities throughout the code-breaking process. Turing authored two papers on mathematical methods, The Applications of Probability to Cryptography and Paper on Statistics of Repetitions, which were so valuable to GC&CS and its successor GCHQ that they were not given to the UK National Archives until April 2012, just before his centennial.

A GCHQ mathematician, "who identified himself only as Richard," stated at the time that the contents' value and relevance to post-war cryptanalysis of the Enigma machine were proved by the fact that they had been restricted under the Official Secrets Act for nearly 70 years before being released into the public domain.

It was common knowledge that Turing exhibited eccentricities at Bletchley Park. Alan was known as "Prof" among his colleagues, and his Enigma treatise was known as "Prof's Book."

According to historian Ronald Lewin and cryptanalyst Jack Good, who worked with Turing:

It was common knowledge that Alan Turing exhibited eccentricities at Bletchley Park 

In the "Reminiscences of Bletchley Park" from A Century of Mathematics in America, Peter Hilton recounted his experience working with Alan Turing in Hut 8:

Peter Hilton recounted his experience working with Alan Turing in Hut 8

Similarly, Peter Hilton echoed similar sentiments in Decoding Nazi Secrets, a documentary broadcast on Nova PBS.


Alan Turing’s Bombe could crack Nazi German’s Naval Enigma

Turing had designed an electromechanical machine called the bombe, which could crack Enigma more successfully than the Polish bomba kryptologiczna, from which its name was derived, within weeks of his arrival at Bletchley Park. With an improvement provided by mathematician Gordon Welchman, the bombe by Alan Turing became one of the primaries and the principal automated tools used to attack Enigma-enciphered signals.

Alan Turing’s Bombe is used to attack Enigma-enciphered signals

Using an appropriate crib: a segment of likely plaintext, the bombe looked for the suitable parameters for an Enigma message (that is, rotor order, rotor settings, plugboard settings, and Turing machine simulator).

How did Alan Turing Build the Bombe?

The bombe executed a chain of logical deductions based on the crib, accomplished electromechanically, for each potential arrangement of the rotors (which had on the order of 1019 states, or 1022 states for the four-rotor U-boat version).

When a contradiction was identified, the bombe ruled out that configuration and moved on to the next. Most alternative options would result in inconsistencies and be eliminated, leaving only a handful to study further. When an enciphered letter was converted back into plaintext, a contradiction would arise, which was impossible with the Enigma. A bombe was installed for the first time on March 18, 1940.

How Alan Turing's Bombe Broke the Enigma Code in WWII

Turing and his colleagues, Gordon Welchman, Hugh Alexander, and Stuart Milner-Barry were frustrated by late 1941. They had built a decent functioning system for decrypting Enigma signals on the work of the Poles, but their limited workforce and bombes meant they couldn't translate all of the signals. They achieved significant success in the summer, and shipping losses dropped to less than 100,000 tons per month. Nonetheless, they desperately required more resources to keep up with German modifications. They attempted to recruit additional personnel and fund new bombes through the appropriate methods but failed.

On October 21, they wrote directly to Winston Churchill, describing their problems, with Alan Turing being the first to be mentioned.

Who was Winston Churchill?

Winston Churchill is commemorated for successfully guiding Britain through World War II. He is known for his motivational speeches and his stubbornness in giving up, even when things were tough. Many people regard him as the greatest British prime minister of all time and one of the most recognized British prime ministers.

Alan Turing wrote to Sir Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of Britain

They emphasized how modest their requirements were compared to the massive expenditure of troops and money by the forces and the amount of help they could provide to the troops.

"This letter had an electric effect," as noted afterwards by Alan Turing biographer Andrew Hodges. Churchill declared in a memo to General Ismay, "ACTION THIS DAY. Make sure they receive whatever they want on extreme priority and report to me that this has been done."

Alan Turing’s Letter from Bletchley Park

On the 18th of November, the secret service chief announced that every precaution was being taken. The cryptographers at Bletchley Park were unaware of the Prime Minister's answer, but Milner-Barry recounted,

"All that we did notice was that almost from that day the rough ways began miraculously to be made smooth."

By the war's conclusion, more than 200 bombes had been deployed. Sir Winston Churchill credited Alan Turing and his fellow code-breakers with ending World War II.

Sir Winston Churchill praises Alan Turing’s contribution to the war

Hut 8 and the Naval Enigma

Alan Turing chose to tackle a specifically tough challenge of the German naval Enigma machine "because no one else was doing anything about it and I could have it all to myself."

Turing solved the critical element of the naval indicator system, which was more sophisticated than the indicator systems used by the other services, in December 1939.

That same night, Alan developed the notion for Banburismus, a sequential statistical approach (what Abraham Wald later named sequential analysis) to help break the naval Enigma, "though I was not sure that it would work in practice, and was not, in fact, sure until some days had actually broken."

For this, Alan devised the ban, a measure of the weight of evidence. Banburismus could rule out particular Enigma rotor sequences, significantly decreasing the time required to verify settings on the bombes. Later, the same sequential approach of gathering sufficient weight of evidence using decibans (one-tenth of a ban) was utilized in Lorenz cipher cryptanalysis.

While visiting the United States in November 1942, Alan Turing visited their Computing Machine Laboratory in Dayton, Ohio, and worked with US Navy cryptanalysts on the naval Enigma and Alan Turing’s bombe machine development. During this trip, Turing also helped create secure speech devices at Bell Labs (now Nokia Bell Labs). In March 1943, Alan Turing returned to Bletchley Park.

Hugh Alexander officially took over as Hut 8's leader during Turing's absence. Still, Alexander had been de facto leader for some time, with Turing having little interest in the day-to-day running of the section. Alan Turing joined Bletchley Park as a general consultant for cryptanalysis.

Hugh Alexander's comment on Alan Turing's unrecognized contributions


Alan Turing invented Turingery in July 1942. How did Turingery work? Turingery’s purpose was to counter the Lorenz cipher transmissions produced by the Germans' new Geheimschreiber (secret writer) machine. At Bletchley Park, this was a teleprinter rotor cipher attachment called Tunny. Alan Turing’s Turingery was a wheel-breaking technique used to determine the cam settings of Tunny's wheels.

Alan also introduced the Tunny team to Tommy Flowers, who built the Colossus computer, the world's first programmable digital electronic computer, which replaced a more straightforward prior machine (the Heath Robinson) and whose superior speed allowed statistical decryption techniques to be usefully applied to the messages.

Some have incorrectly said that Turing was a pivotal figure in the development of the Colossus computer. Turingery and Banburismus' statistical approach influenced thinking about the cryptanalysis of the Lorenz cipher, although he was not personally involved in the construction of the Colossus.


Following his work at Bell Labs in the United States, Turing investigated the notion of electronic voice encipherment in the telephone system. Toward the war's end, he transferred to Hanslope Park to work for the Secret Service's Radio Security Service (later HMGCC). With the help of engineer Donald Bayley, he expanded his understanding of electronics at the park. Codenamed Delilah, the portable secure voice communications device was designed and constructed by them together.

The machine was designed for a variety of uses. However, it did not support long-distance radio broadcasts. Alan Turing’s Delilah, in any event, was finished too late to be utilized during the war. Even though Turing demonstrated the system to officials by encrypting and decrypting a tape of a Winston Churchill speech, Delilah was not selected for deployment. Turing also collaborated with Bell Labs on constructing SIGSALY, a secure voice system utilized in the war's closing years.

Early Computers and the Turing Test

Alan Turing resided at Hampton, London, between 1945 and 1947 while working at the National Physical Laboratory on the design of the ACE (Automatic Computing Engine).

On 19 February 1946, Turing presented a paper that was the first detailed design of a stored-program computer. According to John R. Womersley, Superintendent of the NPL Mathematics Division, Von Neumann's incomplete First Draft of a Report on the EDVAC predated Alan Turing's paper, but it was much less detailed and "contains a number of ideas which are Dr. Turing's own."

Although ACE was a viable design, the effect of the Official Secrets Act surrounding the wartime work at Bletchley Park prevented Alan Turing from explaining the foundation of his evaluation of how a computer installation using human operators would perform. This resulted in project delays, and Turing became disillusioned.

In late 1947, Alan returned to Cambridge for a sabbatical year, during which he wrote a significant paper on Intelligent Machinery that was never published during his lifetime. The Pilot ACE was created in his absence while he was at Cambridge.

The Pilot ACE ran its first program on May 10, 1950, and it influenced many succeeding computers throughout the world, including the English Electric DEUCE and the American Bendix G-15. The full version of Turing's ACE was not completed until after his death.

German computer pioneer Heinz Billing wrote in his memoirs, published by Genscher, Düsseldorf, that Alan Turing met Konrad Zuse. It took place in Göttingen in 1947. The interrogation had the form of a colloquium. Participants were Womersley, Turing, Porter from England, and a few German researchers like Zuse, Walther, and Billing.

Setting the Stage for Artificial Intelligence‍

Turing was appointed a reader in the Mathematics Department at Victoria University of Manchester in 1948. Turing was then named deputy director of the Computing Machine Laboratory a year later, where he worked on software for the Manchester Mark 1, one of the first stored-program computers.

Alan Turing created the initial edition of the Programmer's Manual. Ferranti hired him as a consultant to help them design their commercialized computer, the Ferranti Mark 1. Ferranti continued to pay him consultation fees until his death.

During this period, he continued to undertake more abstract mathematics work. In "Computing Machinery and Intelligence" (Mind, October 1950), Turing addressed the topic of artificial intelligence and suggested the Turing test, an attempt to set a criterion for a computer to be considered intelligent.

The notion was that a computer could be claimed to think if a human interrogator couldn't tell it apart from a human being through discussion. Turing proposed in the article that instead of creating a program to imitate the adult mind, it would be wiser to create a simpler one to model a child's mind and then submit it to a course of instruction.

The reversed form of the Turing test is extensively used on the Internet today. One example based on the reversed Turing test is the CAPTCHA test. CAPTCHA, coined by Luis von Ahn, Manuel Blum, Nicholas J. Hopper, and John Langford in 2003, stands for Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart. It is a test to detect whether the user is a human or a computer.

Alan Turing was a visionary and ahead of his time. In 1948, together with his former undergraduate colleague D.G. Champernowne, both began developing chess software for a computer that did not exist. By 1950, they had completed a program called the Turochamp.

In 1952, Alan attempted to implement it on a Ferranti Mark 1, but the computer could not execute the program due to a lack of power. Turing executed the program by flicking through the pages of the algorithm and following its instructions on a chessboard instead, which took around half an hour every move.

They recorded the game, and according to Garry Kasparov, a Russian chess grandmaster, “Turing’s program played a recognizable game of chess.” It is stated that the program lost to Turing's colleague Alick Glennie. In contrast, the program defeated Champernowne's wife, Isabel.

Alan Turing’s genius echoes up to our day. Turing's Turing test has made a significant, characteristically provocative, and lasting contribution to the discussion surrounding artificial intelligence. Turing’s test built the blueprint for many discoveries today that were not deemed possible during Alan Turing’s time which continues more than half a century later.

Pattern Formation and Mathematical Biology

In 1951, Alan Turing switched to mathematical biology when he was 39, eventually releasing his masterwork The Chemical Basis of Morphogenesis in January 1952.

Alan Turing was fascinated by morphogenesis, or the formation of patterns and structures in biological entities. Alan proposed that a reaction-diffusion system, which consists of chemicals interacting with one other and spreading across space, may account for the main phenomena of morphogenesis.

To represent catalytic chemical processes, Turing employed systems of partial differential equations. For example, if catalyst A is needed for a chemical reaction to occur, and the response creates more of the catalyst A, we say the process is autocatalytic. There is positive feedback that can be modeled using nonlinear differential equations.

Alan recognized that patterns might be formed if the chemical reaction generated not just catalyst A but also an inhibitor B that inhibited the formation. If A and B diffused at different speeds through the container, you may have certain parts where A dominated and others where B did.

Turing would have required a powerful computer to determine the magnitude, but they were not widely accessible in 1951. Thus he had to solve the equations by hand using linear approximations. These computations generated the desired qualitative outcomes, such as a homogenous mixture with irregularly spaced fixed red dots.

Boris Belousov, a Russian biochemist, had conducted tests with comparable results but could not publish his papers due to the widespread belief that doing so broke the second rule of thermodynamics. Turing's publication in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society was unknown to Belousov.

Despite being published before the structure and function of DNA were discovered, Turing's work on morphogenesis is still important today and is regarded as a critical work in mathematical biology. James Murray's study describing spots and stripes on the fur of large and small cats was one of the early uses of Turing's article.

Further study in the field implies that Turing's work can help to explain the development of "feathers, hair follicles, the branching pattern of lungs, and even the left-right asymmetry that places the heart on the left side of the chest."

In 2012, Sheth, et al. discovered that removing Hox genes in mice produces an increase in the number of digits without increasing the overall size of the limb, implying that Hox genes control digit formation by modifying the wavelength of a Turing-type process. Later articles were not available until Collected Works of A. M. Turing was published in 1992.

Alan Turing Legacy

Turing was genuinely passionate about many things, especially mathematics and science. Alan Turing career at Bletchley Park  faded into obscurity after his death. Until the 1970s, the top-secret work Alan Turing has contributed and performed at Bletchley Park became public.

Turing's contributions to the field of computer science are well-known and respected today. Every year, the Alan Turing Award is granted to an individual who has made a significant technological contribution to the field of computer science.

Alan Turing Legacy: The Alan Turing Award

Alan Turing’s Awards

In 1946, Alan Turing was made an officer of the Order of the British Empire, and in 1951, he was also elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS).

Honors and Tributes of Alan Turing

Alan Turing was honored with a Blue Plaque in Manchester where he last resided

Turing has been honored in many ways in Manchester, where he last resided. 

The A6010 road (the Manchester City intermediate ring road) was renamed  "Alan Turing Way" in 1994. This road's bridge was enlarged and given the name Alan Turing Bridge.

A monument of Alan Turing was inaugurated in Manchester's Sackville Park

On June 23, 2001, a monument of Turing was inaugurated in Manchester's Sackville Park, between the University of Manchester building on Whitworth Street and Canal Street. The memorial statue represents the "father of computer science" seated on a bench in the park's center.

The Alan Turing Memorial is a sculpture in Sackville Park dedicated to Alan Turing

The Alan Turing Memorial is a sculpture in Sackville Park in Manchester, England, dedicated to Alan Turing, a pioneer of modern computing. A plaque at the feet of Alan Turing’s statue has a Bertrand Russell quotation: 

A plaque at the feet of Alan Turing’s statue has a Bertrand Russell quotation

As a homage to the godfather of all modern computers, the sculptor buried his old Amstrad computer beneath the pedestal.

Time Magazine

Alan Turing was recognized as one of the 100 Most Important People of the 20th century by Time magazine in 1999, with the statement, "The fact remains that everyone who taps at a keyboard, opening a spreadsheet or a word-processing program, is working on an incarnation of a Turing machine."

King’s College, Cambridge Blue Plaque

A blue plaque was unveiled at King's College, Cambridge

On the centennial of his birth on June 23, 2012, a blue plaque was unveiled at King's College, Cambridge, and is presently housed in the college's Keynes Building on King's Parade.

Turing on £50 Banknote

The Bank of England officially announced the design for a new £50 note featuring Turing's picture on March 25, 2021, ahead of its formal release on June 23, Turing's birthday. Following a public selection procedure, Turing was chosen as the new face of the note in 2019.

Alan Turing was chosen as the new face of the note in 2019

The note will also include a quotation from Turing himself, which reads, "This is only a foretaste of what is to come and only the shadow of what is to be."

Media: The Imitation Game

Portrayal of Alan Turing’s life and contribution to war in The Imitation Game film 

The Imitation Game is a 2014 American historical drama film written and directed by Morten Tyldum, based on Andrew Hodges' 1983 book Alan Turing: The Enigma

Based on a true story, The Imitation Game is a play on the game's name introduced by cryptanalyst Alan Turing in his groundbreaking article Computing Machinery and Intelligence in 1950. Benedict Cumberbatch played him in the film adaptation, immortalizing him on the big screen.

Alan Turing is indeed the Father of Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence. Because of Turing’s efforts, he paved the way for future digital possibilities.

The road to artificial intelligence and computer discoveries became easier to create high technological innovations for brilliant modern computer scientists such as Luis Von Ahn, Jonathan Siddharth, Anita Schjøll Brede, Neha Narkhede and Rana el Kaliouby.

Turing’s Personal Life

Running as a Hobby

Alan Turing, a strong long-distance runner, occasionally ran the 40 miles (64 km) to London when he was needed for meetings at Bletchley Park, and he was capable of world-class marathon standards.

Alan Turing tried out for the 1948 British Olympic team

Turing tried out for the 1948 British Olympic team but was unable to compete due to an injury. It took him only 11 minutes longer to complete the marathon tryout than British silver medalist Thomas Richards' Olympic race performance of 2 hours 35 minutes.

He was Walton Athletic Club's finest runner, which was found when he ran alone and overtook the others. When asked why he ran so hard in practice, he said:

Alan Turing was Walton Athletic Club's finest runner

Turing’s Treasure

Alan Turing felt anxious about losing his savings during a German invasion in the 1940s. To safeguard it, Turing purchased two silver bars weighing 3,200 oz (90 kg) and valued at £250 (equivalent to approximately £8,000 in 2022) and buried them in a wood near Bletchley Park.

When he returned to dig them up, he discovered that he couldn't crack his own code detailing where he had put them. The fact that the area had been refurbished meant he could never recover the silver. Today, Alan Turing’s treasure can be dug up if you can crack the code of a genius.

Turing’s Engagement

Alan Turing’s brief engagement to Joan Clarke

Alan Turing proposed to Hut 8 colleague Joan Clarke, a fellow mathematician and cryptanalyst, in 1941, but their engagement was brief. Turing opted not to proceed with the marriage after disclosing his homosexuality to his fiancée, who was unfazed by the discovery.

Conviction for Indecency and Death

Alan Turing was 39 years old in January 1952 when he began a relationship with Arnold Murray, a 19-year-old man. Alan was strolling along Manchester's Oxford Road shortly before Christmas when Turing spotted Murray outside the Regal Cinema and asked Arnold to lunch. On January 23rd, Turing's residence was when a burglar broke in, and Murray informed Turing that he and the burglar knew each other, and Turing reported the incident to the authorities.

During the investigation, Turing acknowledged a sexual relationship with Murray. The United Kingdom then classified homosexual activities as crimes, and both men were prosecuted with Gross Indecency under Section 11 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885. Turing's solicitor reserved his defense and did not argue or submit evidence against the claims during the initial committal procedures for the trial on February 27. Turing entered a plea guilty and was convicted.

Turing's housekeeper discovered him dead on June 8, 1954, at his home on 43 Adlington Road in Wilmslow. He died the day before, at the age of 41. When cyanide poisoning was determined to be the cause of death, it was assumed that Turing had ingested a lethal dosage.

Government Apology and Pardon

Alan Turing's pardoning was published in the newspaper

In August 2009, British programmer John Graham-Cumming launched a petition demanding the British government apologize for Turing's homosexual trial. More than 30,000 people signed the petition.

On  September 10, 2009, Prime Minister Gordon Brown recognized the petition, issuing an apology and describing Turing's treatment as appalling:

Prime Minister Gordon Brown issued an apology on September 10, 2009‍

Alan Turing’s FAQs:

1. Alan Turing’s early life facts:

Turing attended a prestigious private school as the son of a civil servant. After enrolling at the University of Cambridge in 1931, he studied mathematics there. Upon graduating from King's College in 1934, he was elected a fellow for his research in probability theory.

2. Alan Turing’s education timeline:

Alan Turing’s education history would include several schools he attended:

  • St. Michael’s primary school (age 6-9)
  • Hazelhurst Preparatory School (1922-1926)
  • Sherborne School (age 13)
  • King’s College, Cambridge (1931-1934)

3. What was Christopher Morcom’s cause of death?

Complications of Bovine Tuberculosis

4. Did Alan Turing work at the University of Manchester?

Following his work with the British Intelligence Service at Bletchley Park during WWII, Turing was based at The University of Manchester.

5. How did Alan Turing's enigma machine work?

The Enigma operator manually rotates the wheels to set the starting position for enciphering or deciphering a message.

6. What was the name of the machine Alan Turing invented?

The Universal Turing Machine

7. What happened to Alan Turing's machine?

The National Museum of Computing now has a working reconstruction of one of the most famous wartime machines on display.

8. What is Lambda Calculus?

Lambda calculus is a formal mathematical logic system for expressing computation based on function abstraction and application using variable binding and substitution. It is a computational model that can be used to simulate any Turing machine.

9. What was Alan Turing's first job?

Turing was appointed as a reader in the Mathematics Department at Victoria University of Manchester in 1948.

10. How did Alan Turing start his career?

After returning from the United States to his fellowship at King's College in the summer of 1938, Turing joined the Government Code and Cypher School, and when war broke out with Germany in September 1939, he relocated to the organization's wartime headquarters in Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire.

11. How many Huts at Bletchley Park?

By the end of 1945, there were over 20 Huts on the site, as well as several large permanent brick and steel structures.

12. What computers have passed the Turing test?

The Turing test is a three-person game in which a computer attempts to fool a human interrogator into thinking it is another person by using written communication. Despite significant advances in AI, no computer has ever passed the Turing test.

13. When did the first computer pass the Turing test?

Never. No computer has ever passed the Turing test.

14. Did Alan Turing get an apology?

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown gave a full apology to Alan Turing in 2009.

15. Why was Alan Turing granted a royal pardon?

Alan Turing, the mathematician who helped Britain win World War II by cracking Nazi Germany's "unbreakable" Enigma code, received a rare royal pardon on Tuesday for a criminal conviction for homosexuality that led to his suicide. In 2013, Queen Elizabeth II honored Alan Turing with a royal pardon 59 years later.

Key Takeaway: Alan Turing

Turing has accomplished a great deal at this point in his life. He has been crowned the 20th Century's greatest icon.

In a world where computers are taken for granted, it's difficult to express just how revolutionary his contributions were. Without Alan Turing, there would almost certainly be no computer.‍ 

This is Alan Turing’s life and the legacy of a great thinker. Turing made it feasible for computers to revolutionize our lives. But there's a lot more from Alan Turing’s legacy that we can take away.

A risk-taking attitude:

Alan Turing's bold attitude to complex challenges helped him break new conceptual ground throughout his life. From his time at Cambridge, where he published papers considered the foundations of computer science, to his pivotal work at Bletchley Park cracking German codes.

Turing helped cut the Second World War by years, and his exploration of artificial intelligence and fascination with applying mathematics to the biological world left an indelible mark.


Despite his remarkable intellect, Turing was a brilliant collaborator, working with hundreds of women and men at Bletchley Park and with other mathematicians, engineers, and scientists throughout his career.

I can summarize this by the following quote from Turing: "The search for new techniques must be regarded as carried out by the human community as a whole."‍

What we believe about ourselves:

"I believe that the quest to construct a thinking machine will help us enormously in understanding how we think ourselves," Turing said in a BBC interview in 1951. 

Thinking robots are already commonplace, from speech-recognition software to algorithms utilized in criminal justice systems. Therefore, human mindsets — our societal conventions and subconscious prejudices – must be carefully considered in developing and implementing these systems.

Alan Turing’s legacy, the father of computer science

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