Based on the real life story of Alan Turing (played by Benedict Cumberbatch), The Imitation Game portrays the race against time by Turing and his brilliant team at Britain's top-secret code-breaking centre, Bletchley Park, during the darkest days of World War II. Turing's contributions and genius significantly shortened the war, saving thousands of lives and his work and legacy live on.
As a contribution to the celebration of the Alan Turing Year, the School of Computing hosted an afternoon seminar for students, staff and the general public, attracting an audience of almost 200. The seminar, considered Turing's wider contributions to computing including the relationship of his work to that of other figures in the history of computing, to establishing the correctness of programs, and to the development of an early computer, Pilot Ace, and to its place in the development of the computing industry.
Alan Mathison Turing (1912-1954)
Turing was a pioneer in computing science and wartime code-breaking. 2012 marks the centenary of his birth.
Born in London on 23rd June 1912, the young Alan Turing had a precocious talent for science and mathematics. He studied at King’s College, Cambridge University then Princeton University, New Jersey, USA before publishing his ground-breaking theories on the ‘Turing Machine’ and ‘Universal Turing Machine’ in 1936 – concepts which can today be thought of as a computer program and a modern computer.
During World War II Turing worked secretly part time for the Government Code and Cypher School, Bletchley Park, where he and his team cracked the German Enigma system – in particular deciphering German U-boat messages and so contributing greatly to the winning of the Battle of the Atlantic. Turing was later awarded an OBE for his code-breaking work.
From 1945 to 1948 Turing worked for the National Physical Laboratory in London where in 1946 he produced a first design for an Automatic Computing Engine (ACE). A initial version, called Pilot ACE, was successfully completed in 1950, though by this time he had moved from NPL to Manchester University. At Manchester he contributed to the pioneering work on electronic computing by Williams and Kilburn, and began to study morphogenesis. From 1949 he continued theorising and publishing in fields which have latterly become known as computing, artificial intelligence and non-linear dynamical theory. He was made a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1951.
Turing died of cyanide poisoning in 1954. The far-reaching impact of his theories, his life and his legacy are celebrated in this exhibition.
BBC History, More Information About: Alan Turing. Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/people/alan_turing. (Accessed: 5th November 2012).
Hodges, A. (2004) 'Turing, Alan Mathison (1912-1954)' in Oxford University Press, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography [Online]. (Accessed: 5th November 2012).
With many thanks to Professor Brian Randell for additional information.