Here I am at the home where the brain-box computer scientist, mathematician Alan Turing committed suicide aged 41. Not many people have statues and plaques erected in their honour, nor plays and films written about them like this man. There’s even a carriageway and bridge named after him. Today anyone who opens a computer program owes some gratitude to him. Despite all the scientists working at Silicon Valley in California Alan is still known as “the father of computer science and artificial intelligence.” There’s even a film about him called The Imitation Game.
Through World War II he worked at Bletchley Park, Britain's code-breaking hub. He cracked German codes that helped the Allies to defeat the Nazis in many battles and shorted the war by two to four years.
Life started in Maida Vale, London and there were early signs of genius. He was homosexual (isn’t it obvious from the photos?) and met Christopher Morcom at secondary school. However Christopher died after drinking infected cow's milk. Alan blocked out the grief by working hard and it’s thought the early death blocked out God and he resolved to atheism. After school he studied at King's College Cambridge where as you can guess he gained first-class honours in mathematics. Aged just 23 he wrote and published papers with titles like "On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem." What!? He was so bright the computer room at King's College is named after him.
From ages 24 to 28 he studied at Princeton University (getting a PhD along the way). I’m so thick (I can’t even fix a Flymo) that I can’t understand the Turing machines he invented or his mind but his lectures have been repeated word-for-word.
On 4th September 1939 (the day after the UK declared war on Germany) the 26-year-old Alan was needed and reported to Bletchley Park where he worked through the war (his friends didn’t know about this until the 1970s.) His clear mathematical brain saw into the working of the German’s Enigma machine and the Lorenz SZ 40/42 (a teletype cipher attachment), the code by means of which the German armed forces used to protect radio communications. His machine helped code-breakers decode approximately 40,000 to 84,000 messages per month. This is why people think the German’s intelligence was on its knees and the war was shortened by years.
In his spare time he ran marathons and sometimes ran 40 miles from home to London for a high-level meeting (he tried out for the 1948 British Olympic team but was injured.)
Aged 29 he proposed marriage to a female colleague but he admitted his homosexuality to her and could not go through with the marriage. At just 33 King George VI awarded the Alan an OBE for his wartime services.
After the Second World War he moved to London and worked on the design of the ACE (Automatic Computing Engine) but his mind was many years ahead of physical design and the Turing ACE machine was not built until after his death.
How did he end up in Manchester? Aged 36 he came to work in the Mathematics Department at the Victoria University of Manchester. Here he worked on software for one of the earliest stored-program computers (that we all use today) and devised a test which defined how "intelligent" a computer is or how it could "think" for itself without human intervention (unfortunately the computers at the time were not developing fast enough to implement his ideas.)
Aged 39 he started a relationship with a 19-year-old unemployed man. He’d met him outside the Regal Cinema when walking down Manchester's Oxford Road and invited him for something to eat. About a month later Alan’s house was burgled (no that’s not slang) and his boyfriend told him the burglar was an acquaintance. When Alan reported the crime to police the homosexual relationship came to light and both men were charged with gross indecency. Alan was convicted and given a choice: prison or chemical castration. He chose the latter but the injections left him impotent and the owner of small boobs. After this he was barred from continuing as a consultant for the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) and denied entry into the United States (he was posthumously pardoned in 2014.)
On 7th June 1954 Alan committed suicide by consuming cyanide, probably injected into an apple (a half-eaten apple was found beside his bed.) His housekeeper found him dead the following day. Though the coroner concluded death by suicide there are been some conspiracy theories that he was murdered by secret agents. He had apparatus set up in a spare room so it’s possible he inhaled cyanide fumes by accident. His mum mother believed this but Alan’s biographer suggests apparatus was left out to lead his mum to her conclusion.
Who knows why anyone kills themselves? Some say Alan had traits of Asperger syndrome which plagued him others say impotence and loneliness was too much to bear. He was apparently outgoing, chatty, gregarious and friendly but some people wear a carapace around themselves all their lives and nobody knows the true person.
He was cremated at Woking Crematorium and his ashes were scattered there as his dad's had been scattered.
The semi-detached house called Copper Folly was empty and up for rent at £3,200/month. I couldn’t access the back garden due to a locked gate. No neighbours came out to wave the geek away. I looked up at the front bedroom window where the poor lad was found dead in bed. Child geniuses usually end up going a bit nuts don’t they? What a waste.
Was the front bedroom where he died?
Looking up at a very bright lad…what a waste…
Looks nice at the back…
Out of the drive looking left…
Alan’s house is on the left…