Commemoration for Alan Turing

Iona in Year 9 has sent in a moving piece dedicated to the life of Alan Turing. It details aspects of this inspirational man’s life from his early years right up to his untimely death. The piece was produced as part of an R.E. project inspired by a  lecture delivered at Bletchley Park.

Alan Turing

Introduction:

My commemoration is for Alan Turing, I decided to hold a commemoration for him because he was an unsung war hero who has never got the recognition he deserves. Alan Mathison Turing was born on the 23rd June 1912 in Maida Vale, London and committed suicide aged 41 by cyanide poisoning. He is best known for his work at Bletchley Park. Bletchley was bought by the government in world war 2. It was used to crack the enigma (an encryption device that was used for all German communications that was known to be impossible to decrypt) and they recruited the best linguists and mathematicians in the country including Turing. Alan and his team in hut eight managed to save between fourteen and twenty-one million lives and shorten the war by two to four years. His extraordinary work has also been considered to inspire the first computer (Colossus) after he created the bombe to crack enigma. He is now known as the grandfather of computer science. He died from suicide after he was sentenced for gross indecency because he was gay and that was illegal in 1954 and decided to be chemically castrated instead of prison.

Music:

Song 1 – “Writing’s On The Wall” By Sam Smith

I’ve been here before

But always hit the floor

I’ve spent a lifetime running                               

And I always get away

But with you I’m feeling something

That makes me want to stay

 

I’m prepared for this

I never shoot to miss

But I feel like a storm is coming

If I’m gonna make it through the day

Then there’s no more use in running 

This is something I gotta face

If I risk it all

Could you break my fall?

[Chorus:]

How do I live? How do I breathe?

When you’re not here I’m suffocating

I want to feel love run through my blood

Tell me is this where I give it all up?

For you I have to risk it all

‘Cause the writing’s on the wall

 

A million shards of glass

That haunt me from my past

As the stars begin to gather

And the light begins to fade

When all hope begins to shatter

Know that I won’t be afraid

If I risk it all

Could you break my fall?

[Chorus:]

How do I live? How do I breathe?

When you’re not here I’m suffocating

I want to feel love, run through my blood

Tell me is this where I give it all up?

For you I have to risk it all

Cause the writing’s on the wall

The writing’s on the wall

[Chorus:]

How do I live? How do I breathe?

When you’re not here I’m suffocating

I want to feel love run through my blood

Tell me is this where I give it all up?

How do I live? How do I breathe?

When you’re not here I’m suffocating

I want to feel love, run through my blood

Tell me is this where I give it all up?

For you I have to risk it all

Cause the writing’s on the wall.

This part could be about his life after Bletchley. He was working at Manchester University whilst he was being prosecuted for gross indecency (being gay) while they were trying to prove his affairs with men. 

This verse signifies his relationship with Joan Clarke. When Alan was at Bletchley Park he was engaged to Joan however he wasn’t sure how to come out to her as it was illegal at the time.

This part could be about his past haunting him because his past would include his affairs with men and they are haunting him because the police are investigating his past due to allegations of gross indecency.

The chorus signifies how he couldn’t live his life as himself because he was oppressed for being “different”. As well as being gay he was also placed on the autistic spectrum which made him an easy target for bullying in school. He could either conform to the law, ‘the writings on the wall’, but to fall in love and pursue happiness he would have to ‘risk it all’. 

Objections:

Some objections to having a commemoration for Alan Turing are that people don’t agree with LGBTQ+ rights and that people don’t like the government. At the time Ian Fleming (the person that wrote the James Bond novels) was working as a Lieutenant Commander in Britain’s naval intelligence division. Fleming was involved in devising operations based on intelligence from Bletchley. However, Fleming and Turing didn’t see eye to eye. Fleming wrote a diary during the war and they regularly featured writing about Turing and how annoying he was. Turing always shut down Fleming’s ideas and he made it clear that that he doesn’t like the look of him.

Meal:

Alan was always very particular about what he ate even from a young age he could never let anything touch.

Starter:

Potato and watercress soup- this was a traditional wartime recipe and the inspiration came from the film made about him where he says ‘Oh I don’t like sandwiches. Can I have some soup?’

Main:

Corned beef fritters with carrots and peas- as the food was rationed there was very little meat and the peas and carrots are because as a child at dinner he would have to separate his peas and carrots.

Desert:

Apple pie- when the police found Alan dead there was a half- eaten apple by his side with traces of cyanide on it that was supposedly the way Turing committed suicide.

Order of Service:

First there will be an introduction and then music will play while the cheque is presented to The Turing Trust. The Turing Trust is a charity that reuse IT equipment, educational resources and provide training in schools in sub-Saharan Africa. There will also be an opportunity to volunteer to go to schools and teach them about computers. After that they will have the sit-down dinner and lastly, the speech.

Speech:

Genius, war hero and law breaker. His intelligence was clear from his school days. At the age of 9, his headmistress from St Michael’s Primary School in Hastings reported: ‘I have had clever boys and hard-working boys, but Alan is a genius’. Turing moved to Hazelhurst Preparatory School in 1922 where he became interested in chess, spending hours working out complex chess problems on his own.

At the age of 13, he attended Sherborne School in Dorset. Although his maths teacher Mr Randolph declared him a ‘genius’, this counted little in a school that placed its emphasis on humanities and classics. Teachers would often get annoyed with him for his high marks in exams despite him paying little attention during lessons. Towards the end of his time at Sherborne, Turing formed a close relationship with another student, Christopher Morcom, who shared his intellectual curiosity and inspired Alan’s future endeavors. He has been described as Turing’s ‘first love’. However, their relationship was cut short by Morcom’s death in 1930 from tuberculosis.

Turing graduated from King’s college, University of Cambridge in 1934 with a first-class honours degree and as a result of his dissertation, was elected a Fellow of King’s College at the age of 22. In 1936 Turing went on to study mathematics at Princeton University, New Jersey, obtaining his Ph.D. in 1938. During his time there, he developed the notion of a ‘universal computing machine’ which could solve complex calculations. This would become known as the Turing machine, which foreshadowed the digital computer.

Turing’s most notable achievement at Bletchley was cracking the ‘Enigma’ code. The Enigma was an enciphering machine used by the German armed forces to send messages securely. Together with fellow code-breaker Gordon Welchman, Turing developed the Bombe, a machine based on an earlier Polish design, which from late 1940 was decoding all messages sent by the Enigma machines. Next, Turing turned his attentions to the more complex German naval signals, and together with his ‘Hut 8’ team at Bletchley, succeeded in decrypting these as well in 1941, contributing to Allied victory in the Battle of the Atlantic.

In 1945 Turing was awarded an OBE for his services to the country and in 1949, was made deputy director of the Computing Laboratory at the University of Manchester. Turing first addressed the issue of Artificial intelligence (AI) in his famous paper Computing Machinery and Intelligence (1950). In it, he devised what he called the ‘Imitation Game’ (now called the ‘Turing Test’) – a method to determine whether a machine showing behaviour can truly be called ‘intelligent’. The test has significantly influenced research on AI.

In 1952, Turing reported a burglary to the police, where it emerged that the perpetrator Arnold Murray was in a sexual relationship with him. As a result of anti-homosexuality laws in the UK in the 1950s, Alan was charged with gross indecency (overturned in 2013). He avoided prison by accepting chemical castration, which eventually left him impotent. Turing’s security clearance was also removed, and he was barred from continuing his work with cryptography at the GCHQ.

Alan Turing died on 7th June 1954 the events of his life largely revolutionised the world of computer science. His work is part of our daily lives and many people in today’s society rely on them and yet many people don’t know the struggle Turing went through to get to this point. Alan and his team in hut 8 saved over 2 million lives and yet his own country betrayed him and let him be charged. In 2013 he was given a royal pardon for the way his country treated him. Now it is time for you to decide. Genius, war hero, law breaker.

On 23rd June 2001 (what would have been Turing’s 89th birthday) a statue honoring him was unveiled. It was the product of a campaign by Richard Humphry, a barrister from Stockport, he started the Alan Turing fund and got the idea for the statue; Roy Jackson who had previously raised funds for homosexual awareness in Manchester also assisted. They raised £50,000 during their campaign and commissioned the bronze statue. Turing is shown holding an apple. The cast bronze bench carries in relief the text ‘Alan Mathison Turing 1912 – 1954’ and the motto ‘Founder of Computer Science’ as it would appear if encoded by an Enigma machine ‘IEKYF RQMSI ADXUO KVKZC GUBJ’. However this appear to be an artistic impression of the code rather than a factual Enigma encryption because a letter was not coded as itself and the letter ‘U’ is seen at position 14 in both the plain text and the cipher. 

The statue is regularly accessorised with flags and flowers to show pride and respect both within the LGBTQ+ community and the computer sciences community. Alan Turing was an amazing human being and genius whose life was tragically cut short due to archaic laws stopping him from living life as himself.