Alan Turing

Turing, Alan Mathison

Alan Mathison Turing, 1912–54, British mathematician and computer theorist. While studying at Cambridge he began work in predicate logic that led to a proof (1937) that some mathematical problems are not susceptible to solution by automated computation; in arriving at this, he postulated a universal machine, now called a Turing machine, that was the theoretical prototype of the electronic digital computer. After completing a Ph.D. at Princeton (1938), he returned home to England, where, during World War II, he was instrumental in deciphering German messages encrypted by the Enigma cipher machine. After the war, he helped design computers, first for the British government (1945–48) and then for the Univ. of Manchester (1948–54). During this period, he produced a body of work that helped form the basis of the newly emerging field of artificial intelligence; among his contributions was the Turing test, a procedure to test whether a computer is capable of humanlike thought. Two years after being arrested for a homosexual offense (and then undergoing chemical castration as a "treatment" ), he died of cyanide poisoning. His death was ruled a suicide at the time, but the exact circumstances of his death are unclear, and it has been argued that it could have been accidental. In 2013 Turing was posthumously pardoned for his 1952 conviction for homosexuality.

See biographies by S. Turing (his mother, 1959, rev. ed. 2012) and A. Hodges (1983, repr. 2012)); G. Dyson, Turing's Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe (2012).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2018, The Columbia University Press.

Alan Turing: Selected full-text books and articles

Alan Turing: The Enigma By Andrew Hodges Princeton University Press, 2012
The Legacy of Alan Turing By Alan Mathison Turing; P. J. R. Millican; A. F. Clark Clarendon Press, vol.1, 1996
Machines and Intelligence: A Critique of Arguments against the Possibility of Artificial Intelligence By Stuart Goldkind Greenwood Press, 1987
Librarian's tip: Chap. 1 "The Turing Test"
Codebreakers: The Inside Story of Bletchley Park By F. H. Hinsley; Alan Stripp Oxford University Press, 1994
Librarian's tip: Chap. 14 "Hut 8 and Naval Enigma, Part 1"
Philosophy of Mind By Jaegwon Kim Westview Press, 1996
Librarian's tip: "Turing Machines" begins on p. 80, "'Physical Realizations' of Turing Machines" begins on p. 85 and "The Turing Test" begins on p. 96
The Mind Matters: Consciousness and Choice in a Quantum World By David Hodgson Clarendon Press, 1991
Librarian's tip: "In Computer Science" begins on p. 75
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