Alan Mathison Turing, OBE, FRS (23 June 1912 – 7 June 1954), was a British mathematician, logician, cryptanalyst, and computer scientist. He was highly influential in the development of computer science, giving a formalisation of the concepts of “algorithm” and “computation” with the Turing machine, which can be considered a model of a general purpose computer. Turing is widely considered to be the father of computer science and artificial intelligence.
During World War II, Turing worked for the Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS) at Bletchley Park, Britain’s codebreaking centre. For a time he was head ofHut 8, the section responsible for German naval cryptanalysis. He devised a number of techniques for breaking German ciphers, including the method of the bombe, anelectromechanical machine that could find settings for the Enigma machine.
After the war, he worked at the National Physical Laboratory, where he designed the ACE, one of the first designs for a stored-program computer. In 1948 Turing joinedMax Newman’s Computing Laboratory at Manchester University, where he assisted in the development of the Manchester computers and became interested inmathematical biology. He wrote a paper on the chemical basis of morphogenesis, and predicted oscillating chemical reactions such as the Belousov–Zhabotinsky reaction, which were first observed in the 1960s.
Turing’s homosexuality resulted in a criminal prosecution in 1952, when homosexual acts were still illegal in the United Kingdom. He accepted treatment with female hormones (chemical castration) as an alternative to prison. Turing died in 1954, just over two weeks before his 42nd birthday, from cyanide poisoning. An inquest determined that his death was suicide; his mother and some others believed his death was accidental. On 10 September 2009, following an Internet campaign, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown made an official public apology on behalf of the British government for “the appalling way he was treated.” In May 2012, a private member’s bill was put before the House of Lords to grant Turing a statutory pardon. As of July 2013, it looks likely to succeed, having gained government support.