The Earl of Wessex unveiled a bronze statue of Alan Turing at Surrey University today. The statue, sculpted by John W. Mills, shows Turing walking across the campus with his books under his arm. It is on display in the campus' main piazza, in front of the computing department,
Alan Turing was one of the Great Ones of Computing. In the 1930's he developed the concept of a Turing machine, arguably the basis of modern computing. Later, his work at Bletchly Park during the War was vital to Allies' efforts to break the Germans' ciphers.
As well as his intellectual achievements, Turing was a world class distance runner, with a personal best time over the Marathon distance of 2 hours, 46 minutes and 3 seconds. This is just 11 minutes slower than the winner of the 1948 Olympic marathon race.
After the war, he returned to academic study, and in 1950 proposed a method for identifying machine intelligence, which has become known as the Turing Test.
He was arrested and stood trial for his homosexuality in 1952, a charge he never denied, instead bravely stating that there was nothing wrong with his actions. Rather than endure a prison sentence, he agreed to be injected with oestrogen for a year, to suppress his libido. A barbaric sentence, no doubt.
After his conviction, Turing went into a depression from which he never recovered. He died of cyanide poisoning in 1954. The coroner's official verdict was suicide. ®