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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  • Model of vitamin B12

    Chemist Dorothy Hodgkin used the Pilot ACE computer in research into the structure of vitamins, using it to help devise this model of vitamin B12 (pictured), presented to the Science Museum in 1959.

    Credit: Science Museum/SSPL 

    Alan Turing: 10 ideas beyond Enigma.

  • The Logic Machine devised by Turing protégé Dietrich Prinz

    Turing went to work at Manchester University in 1948, after leaving the National Physics Laboratory. In 1949, his protégé Dietrich Prinz worked with philosophy lecturer Wolfe Mays to devise the electrical relay-operated symbolic logic machine pictured above. Built from RAF spare-parts, the machine is a device for testing logical propositions.

    Turing was fascinated by thinking machines, and in 1950 wrote a paper published in Mind that contained what would become known as the 'Turing Test', a way to measure machine intelligence.

    Credit: Science Museum/SSPL

    Alan Turing: 10 ideas beyond Enigma.

  • A cybernetic 'tortoise' devised by William Grey Walter

    In August 1951, Turing visited the Science Museum and saw a cybernetic 'tortoise' invented by neurologist William Grey Walter. The 'tortoise' could travel around floors and avoid obstacles, and was attracted to light.

    At the time, Grey Walter's neurological institute was also involved in trialling the use of female hormones to reduce libido in homosexual men. Turing, who knew Grey Walter through the cybernetics Ratio Club, was himself was given the choice of prison or chemical castration in 1952 after being found guilty of gross indecency. Turing opted for the course of 'treatment', but was found dead of poisoning in 1954 next to a half-eaten apple.

    Then-UK prime minister Gordon Brown apologised for Turing's treatment in 2009, calling it "horrifying".

    "It is no exaggeration to say that, without his outstanding contribution, the history of the Second World War could have been very different," said Brown. "He truly was one of those individuals we can point to whose unique contribution helped to turn the tide of war. The debt of gratitude he is owed makes it all the more horrifying, therefore, that he was treated so inhumanely.

    "While Turing was dealt with under the law of the time, and we can't put the clock back, his treatment was of course utterly unfair, and I am pleased to have the chance to say how deeply sorry I and we all are for what happened to him."

    'Codebreaker — Alan Turing's life and legacy' runs at the Science Museum from 21 June to 31 July, 2012.

    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 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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