Special focus: Alan Turing

  Alan Turing special report

Alan Turing was born in London on 23 June 1912. Educated at Sherborne School in Dorset and at King's College, Cambridge, he graduated in 1934 with a degree in Mathematics. Twenty years later, after a short but brilliant career, he died.

 

At the turn of the millennium, 45 years after his death, Time magazine listed him among the twentieth century's 100 greatest minds, alongside the Wright brothers, Albert Einstein, DNA busters Crick and Watson, and the discoverer of penicillin, Alexander Fleming. Turing's achievements during his short lifetime were legion. Best known as the genius who broke Germany's most secret codes during the war of 1939-45, Turing was also father of the modern computer. Today, all who click to open are familiar with the impact of his ideas. To him we owe the brilliant innovation of storing applications, and the other programs necessary for computers to do our bidding, inside the computer's memory, ready to be opened when we wish.

 

In addition to his remarkable theoretical and practical contributions to the development of the computer, as well as to the new science of computer programming, Turing was also the first pioneer of the areas of computing now known as Artificial Intelligence and Artificial Life. He also made profound contributions to mathematics and mathematical logic, philosophy, theoretical biology, and the study of the mind.

 

E&T salutes this mathematical visionary on the centenary of his birth, 23 June 2012, with this special report looking back but more importantly ahead, just as Turing would have expected.

 

Selected Alan-Turing news

Turing Test ‘reworked for programmers’, predicts Hoare

Turing Test ‘reworked for programmers’, predicts Hoare

Professor Sir Tony Hoare has proposed an alternative Turing Test that could yield more effective tools for software developers at a prestige conference dedicated to the developer of arguably the famous method for assessing the quality of artificial intelligence.

Wanted: a Rosetta Stone for data, says Cerf

Wanted: a Rosetta Stone for data, says Cerf

Changes to intellectual property (IP) law, self-defining data and virtual machines running in the cloud, could be the solutions to information becoming inaccessible over the long term, Vinton Cerf, Internet pioneer and Google’s chief Internet evangelist, explained at the Alan Turing Centenary Conference in Manchester (Saturday 23 June).

Medical career awaits Watson, predicts Ferrucci

Medical career awaits Watson, predicts Ferrucci

A slimmed-down Watson supercomputer is on its way from quiz show winner to a career in medicine, according to David Ferrucci, who led the IBM team that built the machine.

Mistakes ‘cripple complex codes’: Shamir

Mistakes ‘cripple complex codes’: Shamir

Cryptographers looking for the ultimate security risk building exceedingly complex yet easy to crack ciphers, co-inventor of the RSA technique and Weizmann Institute researcher Adi Shamir told computer scientists at the Alan Turing Centenary Conference in Manchester (Saturday 23 June).

Veloso: robots ‘need to ask for help’

Veloso: robots ‘need to ask for help’

Some aspects of robotics are proving so difficult to achieve that it is time to stop trying to make them self-contained and reassess how the machines could fit into society, a leading researcher has claimed.

Chip debugging technique points way to cancer treatments

Chip debugging technique points way to cancer treatments

Techniques similar to those used by Intel to debug the floating-point unit in its processors are now being applied to models of human cells in an attempt to better understand how they work. The approach has already led to the development of a safer heart defibrillation technique that slashes the energy needed by a factor of ten.

Turing exhibition presents overdue tribute to all-round genius

Turing exhibition presents overdue tribute to all-round genius

London’s Science Museum today opens a major exhibition celebrating the life and work of Alan Turing to mark the great man’s centenary this month.

Turing conference promises unique meeting of minds

Turing conference promises unique meeting of minds

A four-day Alan Turing Centenary Conference will be held from 22-25 June.

Turing’s neuroscience genius also deserving of recognition, says Dolan

Turing’s neuroscience genius also deserving of recognition, says Dolan

Alan Turing may well have pursued a career in neuroscience rather than computer science had he lived, said 2012 IET/BCS Turing Lecturer Professor Ray Dolan in his address yesterday evening at IET Savoy Place in London.

Technology and Innovation Centres should be named after Alan Turing

Technology and Innovation Centres should be named after Alan Turing

The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee has recommended the Government's new Technology and Innovation Centres (TICs) be named after Alan Turing.

The IET/BCS Turing Lecture 2010 trailer video

The 2010 The IET/BCS Turing Lecturer, Professor Christopher Bishop, chief research scientist at Microsoft Research Cambridge will be speaking on ‘Embracing Uncertainty: The New Machine Intelligence’.

Artificial interaction nears Turing Test rate

Machines have come the closest yet to demonstrating interactive skills that fool humans that they are dealing with other humans, in a contest at the University of Reading.

Selected Alan-Turing features

Turing's morphogenesis theory drives research into self-configuring systems

Turing's morphogenesis theory drives research into self-configuring systems

Alan Turing's ideas on morphogenesis are helping scientists to develop ways to make complex materials build themselves.

The Turing Test: brain-inspired computing's multiple-path approach

The Turing Test: brain-inspired computing's multiple-path approach

How closely do we need electronics to impersonate the brain before they can pass the Turing Test?

Was Alan Turing dyslexic?

Was Alan Turing dyslexic?

Some commentators think Alan Turing was dyslexic, some say autistic. In any case his life and his genius remain sources of inspiration for engineers and all those who defy discrimination and prejudice.

Turing Test 2012: friend or faux

Turing Test 2012: friend or faux

What relevance does Alan Turing's controversial proposed method for testing a computer system's ability to behave 'intelligently' have in a world of ever-smarter interactive applications, robotic companions and artificial intelligence?

Turing anniversary books - the best and the rest

Turing anniversary books - the best and the rest

Books published to mark the 100th anniversary of Alan Turing's birth in June this year take different approaches to telling the computing pioneer’s story.

One2ten Stamps

One2ten Stamps

The appearance of World War Two code breaker Alan Turing and steam engine inventor Thomas Newcomen in the Royal Mail's 'Britons of Distinction' series of stamps is not the first philatelic celebration of engineering.

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