1-2016 Alan Turing, the man who knew too much.

Alan Mathison Turing ( 23 June 1912 – 7 June 1954) was a pioneering British computer scientist, mathematician, logician, cryptanalyst and theoretical biologist. Alan Turing is widely considered to be the father of theoretical computer science and artificial intelligence. Turing's contribution to the theory of computation, and decision problems is legendary. In spite of all his genius, he was forced to lead a deplorable and humiliating life and die a mysterious death.

Much later after his death, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown officially apologized to Alan Turing on behalf of the people of his nation for "the appalling way he was treated." Parliament finally brought up a bill of "pardon", and on 24 December, 2013, Queen Elizabeth granted Turing pardon posthumously, 59 years AFTER his mysterious death (he died mysteriously on 7 June 1954).

As if to repent for the torture they inflicted on Turing, the world started naming things in his memory. The highest award in computer science (the Turing Award) "for contributions of lasting and major technical importance to the computer field", is named after him. The Turing Award is generally recognized as the highest distinction in computer science and the "Nobel Prize of computing".The first recipient, in 1966, was Alan Perlis, of Carnegie Mellon University. The fundamental model of a computer is called the Turing machine (much like Dalton's atomic theory which is basic to chemistry). The Turing test is an important contribution to artificial intelligence.

Turing had something of a reputation for eccentricity at Bletchley Park.While working at Bletchley, Turing, who was a talented long-distance runner, occasionally ran the 40 miles (64 km) to London when he was needed for high-level meetings, and he was capable of world-class marathon standards.

Turing played a pivotal role in cracking intercepted coded messages that enabled the Allies to defeat the Nazis in many crucial engagements, including the Battle of the Atlantic; His work, significantly shorted the war by at least two years, saving an estimated 17 million lives. Prime Minister Winston Churchill singled out Turning as the person whose work contributed the most to defeating the Germans. In 1945, Turing was awarded the OBE by King George VI for his wartime services, but his work remained secret for many years. However, many considered him at that time as "the man who knew too much", and hence a "security risk".

It may sound incredibly insane to record that Turing was arrested on 7 February 1952 for his affair with a young Manchester man. Turing worked for the Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS) at Bletchley Park, Britain's cod ebreaking centre Turing's conviction led to the removal of his security clearance and barred him from continuing with his cryptographic consultancy for the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the British signals intelligence agency that had evolved from GC&CS in 1946 (though he kept his academic job at Manchester University). He was denied entry into the United States after his conviction in 1952, but was free to visit other European countries, even though this was viewed by some as a security risk.

He was obliged to undertake injections of female hormones intended to render him asexual. Rather than serving time in prison, Turing chose to undergo estrogen injections then considered in men as a form of “chemical castration” eliminating their sex drive.

For two years after his arrest, until his death, he suffered enormous amounts of humiliation, distrust, disgrace, and embarassment, both personally and professionally.

His housekeeper famously found the 41-year-old mathematician dead in his bed, with a half-eaten apple on his bedside table. The famous logo, a half-eaten apple, used by a famous computer company, reminds us of this incident (although there are other stories about this logo doing the rounds). Turing's habit was to take an apple at bedtime, and that it was quite usual for him not to finish it; the half-eaten remains found near his body cannot be seen as an indication of a deliberate act. Indeed, the police never tested the apple for the presence of cyanide.

This genius paid with his life, for doing so much for humanity (particularly the ungrateful British).

MORAL OF THE STORY :: If you are a cryptologist, do not eat apples. * * *

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