Alan Mathison Turing was born on June 23rd (my birthday too) of 1912 and died on June 7th, 1954 at only 41 years of age.
Alan Turing is considered today the father of modern computing, he talks about "algorithm" and introduces the concept of "program" when computers do not exist yet.
A visionary, a genius, tens of years ahead of his colleagues at the time. A mathematician, but he is also a physicist, biologist, chemist, neurologist and much more, all with the aim of building his machine that can learn. Yes, he already speaks of artificial intelligence.
Like all genes, visionaries, at school was bad, the comments of the teachers are drastic: a bad student.
Yet, he finds his way into physics and mathematics, a subject in which he excels, in 1934 he graduated with honors and in 1936 he won the Smith prize (awarded to the two best students in Physics and Mathematics at the University of Cambridge).
But he is shy, introverted, does not dress well, it seems that sometimes he was seen with his pajama jacket instead of his shirt or with a string to hold his pants, in short in the society moves with difficulty, it also seems slightly stuttering and sometimes it takes a long time to answer the questions, as if he has difficulty finding the right words.
He is also an athlete, he likes running, doing the marathon. He also participates in the selections to enter the Olympic team of athletics, but fails a little, his best time on the distance of 42 km is 2: 46: 3 only 11 minutes longer than the athlete who will win the Olympics then.
Many know Turing for his activity in cryptography. At the outbreak of World War II, the British are in trouble and need all the help they can get. It is clear that it is essential to intercept the orders that the German forces are now exchanging in almost all of Europe.
But the Germans are ready, they have a machine, the Enigma, which crypts and decrypts all the messages exchanged between the various units.
The machine is very simple in appearance, it seems a common typewriter, plus there are letters that light up, so if you press "A" lights up for example "R", if you press "B" lights up for example " M "and so on. By typing the message in plain text, the corresponding encrypted letters are lit. The encrypted message is then sent and the recipient retypes the encrypted message and obtains the plaintext. Simple and effective.
But if the exchange of letters was so static, decoding would be banal. The Enigma allows you to change the key every day, but not only, each time you press a letter the key changes, so if I press "A" twice I will have two different letters!
The key changes every day, every military unit knows every day what key to use, in this way the Germans have also foreseen the case in which the allies are in possession of an Enigma machine.
The key is set by three rotors (then will become four and then five), also on the front there is a further wiring to further exchange the letters between them, the possible combinations are millions of millions of millions.
The car is so sure that the Germans have complete confidence and this is their first big mistake.
The first version of the machine has already been analyzed and studied by the Poles before the start of the war. The Poles built a system able to decrypt the messages, but at the outbreak of the war, the Enigma has evolved, with that front wiring, the system of the Poles is no longer enough and then they transfer all their knowledge to the French before and to the English then.
The British put together a working group that includes the widest range of different skills, linguists, mathematicians, enigmats and chess players. In fact, it seems that the mathematicians are only two, one of them is Turing. The group that works in Bletchley Park eventually has almost 10,000 people.
Turing exploits all his knowledge and designs an electromechanical machine, called Bombe, which in a few hours manages to decipher the messages of the Germans.
The group of cryptographers exploits some errors that the Germans commit, for example, every day at 6 in the morning the weather report is sent and is always written in the same way, so the English people found the word "weather" have already taken a big step forward in the search for the key of the day. Even the greeting to the Furher at the end of all messages is a great help.
With these small contributions, the Bombe and the help of everyone from the group working in Bletchley Park, the British get a great strategic advantage. Some say that if there had not been this help the war would have lasted another two years, while others say that the first atomic bomb would have been launched on Berlin instead.
The war is over, Turing has played an important role, but everything is secret, no Englishman knows what he has done.
After the war, he collaborated with various universities, on different projects aimed at building a computer. He also writes a program to play chess and with this program, he challenges his friend and this is considered the first chess game played by a program.
Turing is homosexual, a condition that he has never hidden from his friends and therefore lives with normalcy and transparency. In 1952 he suffered a theft and went to the police to report the fact. He also says he knows who is one of the thieves, he is a guy he met the day before with whom he had an occasional meeting. Homosexuality is a crime in those years, Turing is tried and condemned for acts of serious indecency to chemical castration, must take female hormones.
On 7 June 1954 the maid finds Turing dead in the bed, there is a strong smell of cyanide in the room and there is an apple bitten on the bedside table.
An investigation is conducted, but today the conclusions to which the inquiry comes: suicide, are not supported by concrete evidence. The famous apple has never been analyzed by the police and it seems that Turing used to eat an apple before going to bed and even not to finish it. The mother has never believed in suicide, she has always talked about an accident, in fact, Turing was experimenting with various substances including cyanide. It seems then that the distribution of poison in the organs of Turing is more compatible with inhalation than with ingestion. The friends and neighbors describe him as happy as ever in the days before his death. In short, the results of the investigation of the time today would not be accepted as sufficient to close the case as a suicide, so we probably never know what really happened. Turing's body was cremated.
On 10 September 2009 the British government made a statement of official apology made by Prime Minister Gordon Brown:
"For those of us who were born after 1945, in a united, democratic and peaceful Europe, it is difficult to imagine that our continent was once the theater of humanity's darkest moment. It is hard to believe that in times still within the reach of the memory of those who are still alive today, people could be so consumed by hatred - from anti-Semitism, from homophobia, from xenophobia and from other murderous prejudices - to make the rooms gas and crematoria became part of the European landscape as much as the art galleries and universities and concert halls that had marked European civilization for centuries. [...] So, on behalf of the British government, and all those who live free thanks to Alan's work, I'm proud to say: we're sorry, you would have deserved better. »
On December 24, 2013, Queen Elizabeth II bestows posthumous grace to Alan Mathison Turing.