Back in September 2009, I posted a note here about UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s official apology to Alan Turing, the English mathematician and pioneer computer scientist. Turing was a central figure in the successful British effort, at Bletchley Park, to break coded messages produced by the Germans’ Enigma cipher machine; some historians say that the efforts of Turing and his colleagues shortened WW II in Europe by two years. He also was a pioneer in the fields of computer science and artificial intelligence.
June 23, 2012, is the centenary of Alan Turing’s birth in London, and there is an effort underway, the Alan Turing Year, to mark the year as a celebration of Turing’s life and scientific accomplishments.
During his relatively brief life, Turing made a unique impact on the history of computing, computer science, artificial intelligence, developmental biology, and the mathematical theory of computability.
2012 will be a celebration of Turing’s life and scientific impact, with a number of major events taking place throughout the year. Most of these will be linked to places with special significance in Turing’s life, such as Cambridge, Manchester and Bletchley Park.
A number of special events have already been planned, and there are undoubtedly more to come. The project is being managed by an advisory committee (listed on the main page), and is sponsored by a variety of organizations, including the British Computer Society, the Association for Computing Machinery, Microsoft Research, the Royal Society of Scotland, the German Mathematical Society, and Wolfram Research.
In a related item, a post at the I Programmer blog reports that Warner Brothers has just acquired the production rights for a new biographical film about Alan Turing’s life. The script, The Imitation Game (presumably a reference to the Turing test), by Graham Moore, is apparently based on Andrew Hodges’s wonderful biography, Alan Turing: The Enigma. Apparently the scuttlebutt is that Leonardo di Caprio “has the inside track” to play Turing. This is a different film from the documentary project I wrote about in February. And it appears that at least one additional production is in the works:
In the UK Channel 4 has also commissioned a new documentary with the working title The Hero of Station X .
(Station X was the code name used to refer to the British WWII code-breaking effort at Bletchley Park.)
Turing, who was named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Important People of the [20th] Century, would have been an important figure even if the war had never occurred. It is heartening to see that his many contributions are being recognized, even if belatedly.