Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Alan Turing's Ways

Some research I did on Alan Turing (just for fun, he's an important guy) - and connections to me:
  • He was born in Paddington, London. His Blue Plaque is on Warrington Crescent, a 2 minute walk from my flat, where the Warrington Hotel is. That's one of my locals!
  • He fell in love with a boy, Christopher Morcom, at public school - but he died of tuberculosis in their final year, leaving Turing heartbroken.
  • He was a marathon runner. Just 11 minutes short of the time that won the (contemporary) 1948 Olympics.
  • He worked on the Manchester Mark 1 - one of the world's first modern computers - but mostly on software.
  • Alan Turing is sat on a bench in Sackville park, Manchester. You can go sit next to him. I've sat there! (It's a bronze statue) Notably, this park is both in the heart of the gay village and near the University of Manchester, site of the Manchester Mark 1.
  • Part of the Manchester inner ring-road is the Alan Turing Way.
  • He was fascinated by fibonacci sequences (as am I). Particularly in plants. Fibonacci himself was more interested in rabbit reproduction! Earlier work on this mathematical discovery was done by Jainists, amongst others. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fibonacci_sequence)
  • Bertrand Russell was an early influence on Turing. However, he argued with Wittgenstein, at Cambridge, about the importance of mathematics in understanding the world. Broadly, Turing was for, Wittgenstein. was against. I spent last weekend in Cambridge =:)
  • Aged 40, he was arrested for gross indecency: "While working at Cambridge, Turing would often take walks in the less reputable parts of town. On Oxford Street in 1951, Turing came upon a 19 year old street urchin called Arnold Murray. The boy was clearly starving, so Turing invited him to lunch at a nearby restaurant. Soon, Arnold was making trips to Turing's apartment at Cambridge and staying the night." (http://www.hacknot.info/hacknot/action/showEntry?eid=75) (Some accounts place this event in Manchester. Both have an 'Oxford Street')
  • He was forced by the medical professionals of the time, to undergo 'hormone therapy'. He was injected with oestrogen for a year, to 'control his lust'. This is a warning against medical knowledge being confused with social!
  • He lost his GCHQ clearance as a result of his criminal conviction, despite getting an OBE for his work on cryptography that helped win the war (Enigma).
  • He committed suicide aged just 42 (2 years after his arrest). He ate an apple laced with cyanide.
  • Some say this choice of method was a homage to his favourite film 'Snow White' by Disney (lol - how camp??).
  • Some say the Apple computer logo (picture it) is a homage to Turing.
  • The sequel to '2001: A Space Odyssey', called '2010: Odyssey Two', features the man who invented/programmed HAL9000. He works in a completely barren cubicle, bar a single photograph of Alan Turing.
Mostly from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_turing - but edited for your convenience.