An English mathematician, logician and cryptographer, Alan Turing was responsible for breaking the Nazi Enigma code during World War II. His work gave the Allies the edge they needed to win the war in Europe and led to the creation of the computer.
Alan Turing, in full Alan Mathison Turing, (born June 23, 1912, London, England) British mathematician and logician, who made major contributions to mathematics, cryptanalysis, logic, philosophy, and mathematical biology and also to the new areas later named computer science, cognitive science, artificial intelligence, and artificial life.
He was an Olympic-level runner
He participated in a few sports, such as rowing, but he loved running. Turing had “a bit of a ‘smelly trainers’ aspect” to his personality,” Hodges said. To work it into his day, he often ran to the places he needed to go. He used to run the 10 miles between the two places where he did most of his work, the National Physical Laboratory and the electronics building on Dollis Hill, beating colleagues who took public transportation to the office.
He joined running clubs, becoming a competitive amateur and winning several races. In 1948, his best marathon time was 2 hours 46 minutes 3 seconds — only 11 minutes slower than the Olympic winning time that year.
When one of his running club members asked why he trained so vehemently, he replied, “I have such a stressful job that the only way I can get it out of my mind is by running hard.”
The father of the computer also dabbled in physics, biology, chemistry and neurology
Turing’s most notable work today is as a computer scientist. In 1936, he developed the idea for the Universal Turing Machine, the basis for the first computer. And he developed a test for artificial intelligence in 1950, which is still used today.
He developed a new field of biology out of his fascination with daisies
Even as a child, Turing saw life through the eyes of a scientist, Hodges said. There is a famous sketch of Turing as a boy “watching the daisies grow” while the other children play field hockey. That sketch would foreshadow Turing’s ground-breaking work in 1952 on morphogenesis, which became a completely new field of mathematical biology. It was a mathematical explanation of how things grow — a great mystery to science, Hodges explained. His work on the subject has been cited more than 8,000 times.
The subject of one of his seminal papers on the topic was called “Outline of the Development of the Daisy.”
He stuttered when talking
It is true that he had a bit of a stammer, something dramatic portrayals of Turing have exaggerated, Hodges said. He “took his time finding the right words,” he explained. In his biography, he notes that a BBC radio producer had called Turing a very difficult person to interview for that reason.
He didn’t keep his sexuality a secret among friends
The laws at the time prevented Turing from being openly gay, but he never kept his sexuality secret either. He was open with his social circles at Kings College in Cambridge, which was “an oasis of acceptance” at the time, Hodges said. Many people would have clung to that oasis, he said, but Turing branched out to continue his work.
In 1952, he was arrested and charged with “indecency” after a brief relationship with another man. Defiant, he did not deny the charges.
He got bad grades and frustrated his teachers
Science was a considered a second-class pursuit in English public schools in the 1920s, Hodges said. Turing’s passion for science embarrassed his mother, who had hoped he would study the classics, which was the most acceptable pursuit for gentlemen.
But he got bad to mediocre grades in school, followed by many complaints from his teachers. His English teacher wrote:-
“I can forgive his writing, though it is the worst I have ever seen, and I try to view tolerantly his unswerving inexactitude and slipshod, dirty, work, inconsistent though such inexactitude is in a utilitarian; but I cannot forgive the stupidity of his attitude towards sane discussion on the New Testament.”