Thursday, June 7, 2012

Alan Mathison #Turing 1912-1954 R.I.P.

Turing's statue in Manchester
It's June 7 here in New Zealand, the anniversary of Alan Turing's tragic death. This morning 58 years ago his housekeeper found him dead with an apple nearby, which he'd partly eaten; the apple was poisoned with cyanide. The subsequent coroner's inquest concluded Turing had committed suicide, though his mother, Sara, always believed it was a tragic accident. Other wilder theories have circulated: that Turing was murdered by the secret services to prevent him giving away top-secret information to the Russians, or even that he was about to announce a mathematical breakthrough that would have rendered all encryption useless. This later theory suggests that Turing had proven the Riemann hypothesis and thereby rendered all prime numbers discoverable. Since primes were, and still are critical to encryption, conspiracy theorists claim an intelligence agency had Turing murdered to protect their secrets. Needless to say there is no evidence to support these wild speculations.
   In 16 days we will be able to celebrate a happier event in Turing's life, namely the centenary of his birth on June 23 1912. On another happy note, yesterday we saw the transit of Venus across the Sun. I can't help that think Turing would have been fascinated by this event and watched in awe as the solar system revealed its structure.

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