Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Alan Turing Deserves More Attention From the General Public

Alan Turing was an incredibly important mind from the the twentieth century.  Most computer scientists would recognize his name, but I think more of the general public needs to know about him.


Turing was a mathematician known to many as the father of modern computer science and artificial intelligence.  He helped crack the German Enigma machines.  He formalized the concept of algorithms by defining the Turing Machine, a model of a general-purpose computer that he devised before electronic computers really existed.  Later on, he created one of the first designs for a computer that could store programs and became interested mathematical biology and chemistry.

Sadly, Turing met a tragic end.  He was homosexual during a time that being so was a crime in Britain.  He was prosecuted, and chose chemical castration to avoid jail.  He died shortly thereafter of cyanide poisoning.  Many believe it was a suicide, though some of his family says it was accidental.  No matter the reason he died, it is very sad that such an important and valuable person had to leave us so soon.  One can only imagine what he might have done if he had lived decades longer.

The thing is, not too many people outside the computer science community seem to know who he is.  I personally think that's a tragedy in itself.  I thought it was cool that Tim Berners Lee was honoured at the opening ceremonies of the London 2012 Olympics, but I think the organizers missed an opportunity by not honouring Turing somehow.

So, learn more about Turing if you don't know a lot.  Spread the word about how important he was.  Help make him a household name.  Here are some links to help you get started:

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