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Turing Centenary

Alan Mathison Turing (1912-1954)

  • 1912 Born 23rd June in London
  • 1931 Begins studies in mathematics at Kings College, Cambridge University
  • 1936 Begins studies at Princeton University, New Jersey, USA as a graduate student
  • 1936 Publishes 'On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem', Proceedings of the London Mathematical Society, 42, 1936, 230-265; 43, 1937, 544-546 which introduces the 'Turing Machine' and the 'Universal Turing Machine' - concepts which can today be thought of as a computer program and a modern computer
  • 1938 Returns to England and begins working secretly part time for the Government Code and Cypher School, Bletchley Park during World War II
  • 1939 Designs the Bombe electromechanical decryption device, and breaks the initial Naval Enigma system then in use by German U-Boats
  • 1940 With Gordon Welchman designs an improved Bombe. During the war several hundred Bombes were manufactured by the British Tabulating Machine Company and in the USA, and used to find daily settings of Germany's numerous different Enigma networks
  • 1942 The German Navy introduce changes making their Enigma-encrypted U Boat traffic unbreakable for some months, until Turing devises a solution, and so contributes greatly to the winning of the Battle of the Atlantic. Turing is later awarded an OBE for his code-breaking work during World War II
  • 1943 Turing's insight and experience are a guide and influence on the team led by Tommy Flowers at the Post Office Research Laboratory who built the Colossus electronic code-breaking computer for Bletchley Park. By 1945 they had delivered some ten Colossi. These were used to break messages that had been encrypted using the Lorenz teleprinter cipher machine, a machine that was used for Hitler's strategic communications
  • 1945-1948 Works for the National Physical Laboratory, London
  • 1946 Designs an Automatic Computing Engine, the basis of the Pilot ACE computer completed at NPL in 1950 after he had left. Pilot ACE was hailed in the press as 'a new electronic "brain"', although those working on the machine strove to distance themselves from this term
  • 1949 Moves to Manchester University, where he joins in on the work of Freddy Williams and Tom Kilburn, whose small experimental stored program computer, the genesis of the Ferranti Mark I computer, had first worked in 1948
  • 1950 Publishes 'Computing Machinery and Intelligence', Mind, 59, 1950, 433-460
  • 1951 Elected Fellow of the Royal Society
  • 1952 Arrested and prosecuted for being in a consensual same-sex relationship, which was illegal at the time (homosexual acts between two men in private aged 21 or over was made legal by the The Sexual Offences Act 1967)
  • 1954 Dies 7th June, aged 41
  • 2009 Then Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, issues an apology on behalf of the UK government for the "appalling way" Turing was treated
  • 2013 Posthumous pardon by the Queen 
  • 2016 "Alan Turing Law" introduced to provide posthumous pardons for those convicted of consensual same-sex relationships before homosexuality was decriminalised in 1967
  • 2019 Chosen to feature on the new £50 bank note. Then Bank of England Governor, Mark Carney, said, "Turing is a giant on whose shoulders so many now stand"


BBC History, More Information About: Alan Turing. Available at: (Accessed: 5th November 2012).

Darwin, C. G. (1946) 'The "Electronic Brain"', The Times, 13th November, p.7. Times Digital Archive [Online]. (Accessed: 5th November 2012).

Hartree, D. R. (1946) 'The "Electronic Brain": a Misleading Term', The Times, 7th November, p.5. Times Digital Archive [Online]. (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).

The Manchester Guardian (1946) 'A New Electronic "Brain": Britain Goes One Better', 7th November, p.8. ProQuest Historical Newspapers [Online]. (Accessed: 5th November 2012).

With many thanks to Professor Brian Randell for additional information.