What you should know about Alan Turing: the father of computing and AI

Alan Turing was a famous British mathematician and cryptographer who left a great legacy that endures to this day. His intellectual contributions laid the foundations of computing as we know it today. In fact, he is considered one of the fathers of this science, which makes it possible to interact with computers and going further, gives us the possibility of talking with virtual assistants like Siri or Alexa.

He was born in 1912, a few years before the publication of the general theory of relativity, which he came to understand during his student years at Cambridge University. His notes and essays from the time on these works stand out. However, he was more inclined to investigate the foundations of mathematical theories that were the subject of debate at that time and which gave rise to the appearance of Gödel’s Theorem, a masterpiece of the 20th century.

Thus, in 1936 he presented a scientific article in which he developed the notion of the “Turing machine“, a theoretical concept that represents a mechanical system capable of executing a sequence of instructions programmed according to the nature of the proposed task, usually an entry of numeric or alphanumeric data. With this concept, Turing basically invented the notion of a computer algorithm decades before the creation of the first digital computers.

But Turing’s contributions are not limited to the theory of computational calculus. Turing also worked secretly during World War II for the British government. His job was to crack Nazi codes at the Bletchley Park laboratory. In that period he developed techniques such as the electromechanical “bomb”, which allowed the Allies to decipher the ciphers of the Enigma machine used by the Nazis. It is estimated that his work shortened the war by at least 2 years and saved nearly 14 million lives.

After the war, Turing continued researching computer science. He furthered his studies in electronics and worked at the University of Manchester on the development of the first computers. In 1948, Turing was already talking about building machines that imitate the functioning of the brain and he is considered a pioneer in this field. In 1950, he published the article Computing Machinery and Intelligence in which he presented the famous Turing Test, a test with which he tried to check if a machine could think like a human.

How did Alan Turing die?

Unfortunately, Turing’s life came to a tragic end. In 1952 he was convicted of homosexuality, then illegal in the United Kingdom. To avoid prison, he agreed to undergo estrogen-based therapy that attempted to “remedy” his sexual orientation. This treatment caused impotence and other side effects such as gynecomastia. In 1954, at age 41, Turing died after eating a poisoned apple. According to his autopsy certificate, it was suicide.

Leave a Comment

Scroll to Top