When it comes to compiling a list of the most significant figures of the 20th Century, Alan Turing should be one of the frontrunners. The man responsible for cracking the Nazi u-boat enigma code during World War Two went on to develop the ideas that have seen him hailed as the father of modern computing and a new show at London’s Science Museum marks the centenary of his birth. It is among a series of events planned for 2012 designed to rehabilitate somewhat his reputation which has often been overlooked due to his conviction for homosexuality – he was sentenced to chemical castration and took his own life by eating an arsenic-laced apple in 1954.
Along with his Pilot ACE computer – “Alan Turing’s mind made into metal and glass valves” – the exhibition also includes some cybernetic tortoises which once delighted him on a visit to the same museum and a collection of letters to a teenage crush whose tragic early death is sometimes said to have driven to exploring how the mind could live on after the body.
A superhuman talent with a decidedly human outlook – as a child he invented the word quockling to describe the sound seagulls make when scavenging over food – Turing’s is a genius and a life story we should all be aware of.