There is no doubt that the world would not be the same place if it hadn’t been for Alan Turing [b. 23 June 1912 – d. 7 June 1954]. In fact, you wouldn’t be reading this delectable morsel if it weren’t for the incredible genius of this British mathematician in developing the modern day computer.

A prophet of mathematics, with a natural inclination to numbers and science, Turing entered King’s College in 1931 and graduated Honors in Mathematics pioneering the working model for the Turing Machine, which operated on “Algorithims” that would make computing any mathematical problem conceivable. Obtaining a PhD from Princeton in June 1938, Turing  furthered his concepts introducing oracles that could plan and solve complex problems that the Turing Machine was unable to compute.

It wasn’t until war time that Turing’s incredible genius would truly be implored, joining the German code-breaking team at Bletchley Park in September 1938. Using his profound wizardry in the realm of numbers, Turing was able to develop a statistical approach using computing machines to decode the impossible German Enigma-codes. This would ultimately provide the Allies with a major advantage in winning the war.

Turing was awarded the Order of the British Empire for his services during wartime.

Turing also applied his mathematical brilliance in the fields of biology, imploring mathematical thought to the idea of pattern formation in nature. He also used mathematics to develop the foundations for the science behind morphogenesis – how biological forms come to be.

So in short, a {Hero}.

However, although interesting, it’s not his mathematic, scientific, or civil achievements that really caught our attention. It is, in fact, his mysterious and bizarre death.

It all began quite innocently – the way these things always begin. After being victim to a petty burglary of his home in January of 1952, police investigations opened the flood gates, revealing Turing’s homosexuality, which in fact was illegal in the UK at this point. Wanting to evade going to prison, Turing was able to go on probation after agreeing to a chemical castration that would require him to take injects of stilboestrol, a synthetic estrogen hormone.

Perhaps the injects caused moments of weakness or uncertainty, as various mood disorders and physical ailments have now been attributed to stilboestrol. And while he is recorded as throwing “such a jolly [tea] party” for a neighbour and her son four days before he died, he was found in the most macabre of circumstances: laying in bed with a half-eaten apple at his side.

If this sounds like fairy tale, don’t be mistaken, the past is a twisted and dark place, but there’s no denying the comparison to Turing’s death and the story of Snow White and The Seven Dwarves – Turing’s recorded favourite fairy tale. Novelist David Leavitt quotes that the mathematical genius took “an especially keen pleasure in the scene where the Wicked Queen immerses her apple in the poisonous brew.”

Many have speculated that Turing may have soaked the apple in poison as an homage to his favorite tale of dark pleasure and deceit, others (his mother particularly) have asserted that Turing was in fact just careless when it came to storing his lab chemicals. Whatever the truth may be, the circumstances surrounding Turing’s untimely demise are as fascinating as his science. His death was ruled a suicide, but recent discoveries seem to point in other directions.

Perhaps it was just a way to say good-bye to a cruel world, unwilling to accept the man, no matter how great his genius. He was but the innocent, and it was a truly unjust society that would poison the likes of such an incredible mind.

Luckily, Turing’s legacy lives on every we look. From this computer screen, to our televisions, and phones, the airplanes in the sky, the subway beneath my feet – all these things and more would not be possible without Turing’s ingenuity and courage to innovate.

Can we say ‘Hello 21st Century’!

Sincerely,

{theEye}

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2 thoughts on “History {Is Made At Night} – The Poison Apple That Killed The Father of Computer Science

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