Everything you wanted to know about Alan Turing


In the world of science, there are many names that have really struck a chord throughout history. Yep, names such as Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, Marie Curie, and more have been able to use their knowledge, their risk-taking skills, and their research to change the course of history and create a new path for the human race. Yet, one scientist we’ve left off that list is Alan Turing – who not only proved that he was an intelligent scientist but also showed the world that he was a competent mathematician, logician, and even a cryptographer. However, people often forget the impact Alan Turing had in the world…so this is everything you wanted to know about Alan Turing.

He was not the best student

When you think of famous scientists, you often think of intelligent children who were years ahead of their peers in terms of their schoolwork – but Alan Turing was an enigma in that aspect. In fact, Turing was not a good student, and his teachers often complained about his work ethic, as well as his intellectual ability. This may have been because science as a subject was not pushed onto students during the 1920s in England, but this was also because Turing seemed to have no interest in his school life. He almost didn’t get to chance to take the National School Certificate exams in maths and science, because his teachers were certain he would not pass them.

The death of a close friend spurred him on

During his later schooling years, Alan Turing realized that he was attracted to his close friend, Christopher Morcom. Sadly, Christopher passed away within years of their friendship – and Turing was devastated by his death. However, Alan was convinced that his friends’ soul and mind would somehow live on in this world, which spurred on his scientific discoveries, particularly surrounding the mind, the brain, and the inner workings of a computer. After obtaining a place at Cambridge University, Alan began to look into this further and published a paper in 1936 which has since allowed the world to see Turing as the founder of computer science. In this paper, Turing looked into the idea of a ‘Universal Machine’ which had the ability to both decode and perform instructions. A decade later, Turing used this idea to create the first plan for a physical computer.

He soon joined forces with the government

After researching his science further at Princeton University in America, Alan Turing returned to England to join forces with the government to work within their code-breaking department. In 1939, Turing and the British government were told by the Polish Cipher Bureau that the German Army had created an Enigma Machine, which had the ability to encipher all of their military signals. In defense, Turing and a group of cryptographers, mathematicians and scientists developed the ‘Bombe’ which had the ability to break these codes. In turn, he saved thousands of lives as the German military were not able to slip through the net.

He struggled in his personal life

Although he was responsible for even more scientific breakthroughs during the course of his career, Alan Turing did struggle in his personal life. Since same-gender relationships were illegal during this period, Turing could not publicly explore his emotional tendencies – but that didn’t stop him from trying. In 1967, Turing was prosecuted with gross indecency after his affair with another man came to the police’s attention. Instead of serving jail time, Turing opted to have a government-run hormone treatment which served as chemical castration. Alongside this, Turing was kept under strict police-surveillance, which many believe led to him taking his own life in 1954.

Alan Turing is one of the most successful men in science – but did you know all of these facts about him?