Tuesday, 18 June 2024 13:32

Pride Month: Alan Turing (and namesake of one of our meeting rooms) Featured

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All our meeting rooms at Basestation are named after people who have made a huge contribution to the advances in technology.

Our first floor meeting room, which can accommodate up to 8 people, is named after Alan Turing, an English mathematician and computer scientist.

As it’s Pride Month, we figured now would be a good time to write a short blog about Turing’s contribution to the computer age and also understand the challenges he faced in his personal life.

Born 1912, in Maida Vale, London, UK -  from a young age Turing showed signs of being a genius. Even his primary school headmistress said of him "...[I have taught] clever boys and hardworking boys, but Alan is a genius."

Turing attended King’s College Cambridge where he studied Mathematics, he went on to earn a PhD from the Department of Mathematics at Princeton University in the USA. In 1938 he returned to the UK and by September that year was working with the British code breaking orgaisation. A year later, the UK had declared war on Germany and Turing started reporting to Bletchley Park. It’s here that Turing's work on cracking the German Enigma Machine which was used to send encrypted messages amongst the enemy.  

While working at Bletchley Park, Turning earned the nickname “Prof” from his colleagues.

One of his friends and colleagues at this time later described Turing as thus:

“ [for] those, like myself, who had the astonishing and unexpected opportunity, created by the strange exigencies of the Second World War, to be able to count Turing as colleague and friend will never forget that experience, nor can we ever lose its immense benefit to us.”

Turing was also a impressive long distance runner, when asked why he ran so hard he replied:

“I have such a stressful job that the only way I can get it out of my mind is by running hard; it's the only way I can get some release.”

It’s hard to estimate the true impact of the work Turing and his colleagues at Bletchley park had on the war effort, one estimate it is said that it shortened the war in Europe by more than two years and saved over 14 million lives.

In 1946 Turing was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) by King George VI, but due to the official Secrets Act signed by all that worked at Bletchley Park, Turing’s work during this time remained a secret for many years.

After the war Turing stayed in the UK, between 1945 and 1947 he worked on the design of the Automatic Computer Engine (ACE) at the National Physical Laboratory in London. He returned to academia in 1948 and started working in the Maths department at Victoria University in Manchester. A year later he became Deputy Director of the Computing Machine Laboratory, where he worked on software for one of the earliest stored-program computers—the Manchester Mark 1.

In 1952, Turing was prosecuted for homosexual acts (as it was illegal back then). He pleaded guilty and accepted hormone treatment as an alternative to prison.

Due to his conviction he was unable to return to the US to work and was barred from working for the government (which included the cryptographic consulting work he was doing for the Government Communication Headquaters and British Signals Intelligence Agency).

Two years later, at the age of 41, Turing committed suicide.
In 2009, then British prime minister, Gordon Brown made an official public apology for "the appalling way (Turing) was treated." In 2013, Queen Elizabeth granted a pardon.


Earlier this year Basestation signed up to the Safe Space Alliance, This means we endeavor to create a safe space where LGBTQ+ communities can freely express themselves without fear. We do not tolerate violence, bullying or hate speech towards LGBTQ+ communities. To read more about this check out the blog we wrote last May. https://www.basestation.nz/blog/news/safe-space-alliance

Read 168 times Last modified on Monday, 24 June 2024 10:06

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