As part of the Alan Turing Centenary, the Science Museum in London has opened a new exhibit on Turing’s life and work. The exhibit includes a number of items related to Turing, including a model of the Pilot ACE computer, for which Turing produced the basic design in 1945 at the National Physical Laboratory, and an example of a German Enigma cipher machine.
The “Babbage” blog at The Economist has a review of the exhibit, and the ways in which it relates to Turing’s life, in an attempt to give a rounded picture of the man.
Unlike other Turing tributes, which have tended to focus on one aspect of his work, the Science Museum aims to give a flavour of Turing the individual, and thus the exhibition mixes illustrations of the importance of his academic achievements with exhibits from the personal life of the man himself.
As the article points out, Turing is probably better known to the public for his wartime codebreaking work than for his work in mathematics. His 1936 paper, On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem [PDF], in which he described the computing device we now know as a Turing machine, is certainly not light reading. And computers, especially modern ones, aren’t really all that interesting to look at. The Pilot ACE is old enough to have a console and visible electronic components.
It sounds like a most interesting exhibit.
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