Alan Mathison Turing was born on June 23, 1912, in London, England. From a very young age he started showing signs of high intelligence. He was able to solve advance equitation without even knowing simple calculus. At the age of 13, in 1926 his parents enrolled him to Sherborne independent School, in which he became very interested in math and science.
Like any other natural ability, Turing’s natural inclination to mathematics drove him to strive excellence in the subjects that he loved, even though he wasn’t particularly good or even paid any attention on other subjects. Because of this fact, most of his teaches at Sherborne weren’t very font of Turing.
After leaving Sherborne, in 1931 he attended King’s College, in Cambridge. Upon his graduation, he was elected as a fellow as a result of his dissertation, in which he proved the central limit theorem. The computer room in King’s College was also named after him.
Turing life’s work and one of the biggest discoveries he made is part of the paper he delivered in 1936, "On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem", taking on a problem believed to be one of the hardest of the 20th century. This paper presents the idea of the Universal Turing Machine.
Today’s modern computers and their technology is all based on this paper.
In 1938 he received his PhD from Princeton University, after spending 2 years studying not only mathematics but also cryptology.
After Princeton and During the Second World War, Turing worked for the Government Coding and Cypher School at Bletchley Park.
Even before the Second WW the Germans were using a cypher machine called enigma to encrypt all their communications.
The machine had 2 types of letters. Like a type writer it had the normal one’s witch someone pressed to compose the message, but it also had a second pair of letters that light up. In essence when a user pressed a letter some other random letter would light up thus creating the code. Even if the same letter was pressed twice, it would still light up another random letter than the previous one.
All this was possible through the machines settings. An Enigma Machine has around 159,000000,000000,000000 (that’s 159 million million million possible daily settings). Now if you get 10 men checking a single setting a minute for 24 hours each day, 7 days a week, it would take them 20 million years to check each possible setting.
Turing designed a machine that smashed the enigma code named the Bombe. The cryptographers would guess of a phrase that was possible inside the encrypted message. They would input that guess into Bombe and the machine would cycle through all the possible settings the enigma machine might have been setup with. In a good day Bombe was able to find an enigma setting in 15 minutes.
After the war, Turing went to work for the University of Manchester and continued to make hugely contributions to computing.
One of Turing greatest work and the one that he is based known for is the Turing Test.
In 1950 Turing published a paper, "Computing Machinery and Intelligence" in witch he proposes the idea of computers being able to think. The Turing Test is design to determine the computers ability to exhibit intelligent behavior equivalent or indistinguishable to that of a human.
The Turing test states that if there are 2 people in a single communication, A being a Person and B being a computer, a 3rd person by exchanging texts between each one of them, will not be able to identify which one is the computer.
The Turing test laid the foundation for Artificial Intelligence and is still today the foundation of determining the intelligence of the computer.
An example of the modern Turing Test is the famous CAPTCHA, which is sort for Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart. There are many forms of this test around the web, from a text field showing words that the user has to input in a text field correctly to pass it, to questions with a box of images that the user has to choose the right ones. In both of these cases a human can easily pass the test, although the machine is unable to.
Turing was Gay in a time that it was a crime to be Gay. After coming forward about his sexuality the government declared him as a security risk and he was fired from his job.
He was later convicted, in 1952 for indecency and was given two options, imprisonment or probation with the condition to undergo hormonal treatment. He accepted the treatment via injections, witch render Turing impotent.
Turing committed suicide on June 7, 1954 after eating an apple that was liaised with cyanide.
John Graham-Cumming, a British programmer opened a petition in 2009 to the British government to apologies for how Turing was treated more than 55 years ago.
The petition received 30,000 signatures and in September of the same year, the petition was acknowledged by the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown. He released a statement apologizing about how Turing was treated.
In 2013, Queen Elisabeth II signed a pardon for Turing Conviction, with immediate effect.
Turing is credited as the father of Artificial Intelligence and modern Computing.
“Sometimes it is the people no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine”
- Alan Turing (1912-1954)