Alan Turing: The computing pioneer's life and works, in photos

Alan Turing: The computing pioneer's life and works, in photos

Summary: The Science Museum in London is celebrating the centenary of computing pioneer Alan Turing, whose work helped shorten World War II, laid the groundwork for modern computers, and set the standard test for artificial intelligence

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  • Mick Jagger's Enigma machine

    If mathematician Alan Turing were still alive today, he would have reached his 100th birthday on 23 June. To celebrate the centenary, the Science Museum in London is staging an exhibition on the work of the British computing pioneer, whose ideas helped drive code-breaking and computer programming, but stretched into many other areas.

    Turing was only 24 years old when he came up with the idea of the 'stored program' computer, which underpins every computer today. He influenced early thinking on artificial intelligence, came up with mathematical approaches to problems in biology and medicine, and played a part in designing and programming the early computers built in the post-war era.

    In September 1939, Cambridge graduate Turing was recruited to work on World War II code breaking at Bletchley Park, in part to try to crack the Enigma codes used by the German High Command. He helped develop the electromechanical Bombe machine, which acted as if it were several Enigma machines wired together, for the decoding. His work is thought to have helped shorten the war by two years.

    The Enigma machine pictured was lent to the museum by Mick Jagger, who produced the 2001 British movie Enigma, a wartime thriller set at Bletchley Park.

    Credit: Science Museum/SSPL


    Alan Turing: 10 ideas beyond Enigma.

  • The Pilot ACE built from Turing's designs

    After the war, Turing worked on developing a computer at the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington. He left the project in 1948, but a trial version of the Pilot ACE computer (pictured) was completed in 1950 from Turing's fundamental designs.

    Described by the Science Museum as "the most significant surviving Turing artefact", the Pilot ACE (Automatic Computing Engine) was one of the first electronic universal computers.

    Credit: Science Museum/SSPL


    Alan Turing: 10 ideas beyond Enigma.

  • Fuselage from the wreckage of a Comet aircraft

    The Pilot ACE computer was used to investigate a series of fatal air crashes involving Comet aircraft in the 1950s. The cause of the crashes was subsequently found to be metal fatigue.

    This piece of fuselage (pictured) is from a Comet that crashed in 1954 into the Mediterranean near Italy, killing 35.

    Credit: Science Museum/SSPL


    Alan Turing: 10 ideas beyond Enigma.

Topics: After Hours, Security

Tom Espiner

About Tom Espiner

Tom is a technology reporter for ZDNet.com. He covers the security beat, writing about everything from hacking and cybercrime to threats and mitigation. He also focuses on open source and emerging technologies, all the while trying to cut through greenwash.

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  • Turing was a hero in more ways than just computing. George Takei of Star Trek fame shared this on his Facebook page...
    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=480796475283144&set=a.223098324386295.105971.205344452828349&type=1&theater
    ChicoThorn