An Olympic honour for Alan Turing


“Last year I led a campaign to obtain an apology for the mistreatment of the British mathematician Alan Turing. Turing’s prosecution for homosexuality led to the death of a true genius at the age of only 41 in 1954. On 10 September last year, Gordon Brown issued an apology that recognised Turing’s stature as one of the greatest Britons. But Britain has a final opportunity to unapologetically recognise Alan Turing in two years’ time, at the 2012 Olympics.

It’s now well known that Turing laid down the foundations of computer science in the 1930s, helped shorten the second world war by breaking Nazi codes at Bletchley Park and investigated artificial intelligence. He went on to design early computers during the late 1940s and just before he died he was untangling the process of morphogenesis to understand why and how living beings take the shape they do. Only today are scientists appreciating the work he did in his last years, and every computer user can be thankful for his theoretical Turing machine, which captured the essence of the machines we all use.

What is less known is that Turing was also an accomplished physical athlete. He was an excellent marathon runner, with a best time of 2 hours 46 minutes. He ran for a local club in Walton, Surrey while working at the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington. He is also said to have run between London and Bletchley Park for meetings during the second world war, and at age 14 he cycled 60 miles from Southampton to school at Sherborne during the general strike of 1926.”



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