TURING, Alan (1912-1954)
Plaque erected in 1998 by English Heritage at 2 Warrington Cresent, Maida Vale, London W9 1ER, City of Westminster
Mathematician, Computer Scientist
ALAN TURING 1912-1954 Code-breaker and Pioneer of Computer Science was born here
With his pioneering work in computer science, Alan Turing is one of those rare people who can justifiably be said to have changed the way in which we live. A blue plaque commemorates his birth in a nursing home at Warrington Lodge, 2 Warrington Crescent, in Maida Vale.
The son of the civil servant Julius Mathison Turing and his wife Ethel, née Stoney, Alan was interested in science from his youth and entered Cambridge in 1931. By the age of 24, he had published his vital paper ‘On Computable Numbers’ (1936) and developed the concept of the ‘universal Turing machine’, now seen as embodying the principle of the modern computer.
During the Second World War, he worked as a cryptanalyst at Bletchley Park, Bedfordshire, where he made his vital – and, at the time, top-secret – contribution to the deciphering of the German Enigma code.
THE FIRST COMPUTING MACHINE
In 1945 Turing joined the National Physical Laboratory at Teddington, where he designed and was instrumental in the development of the Automatic Computing Engine (ACE), regarded as the world’s first universal computing machine.
He joined the Manchester Computer Laboratory in 1948 – working under the mathematician Max Newman, whom he had known from Bletchley Park days – and two years later he settled in nearby Wilmslow.
Turing’s final years were marked by tragedy: in 1952 he was prosecuted for his relationship with another man. Despite having always been open about his sexuality, Turing came to be regarded by his employers as a security risk and barred from working at GCHQ. The ensuing phase of depression ended with his suicide by cyanide poisoning at the age of 41.