Wartime notes belonging to the “father of modern computing”, Alan Turing, have been saved from falling into private hands. They’ll now be on display in Britain’s Bletchley Park.
That’s particularly appropriate because Bletchley Park is where Turing and others worked to decipher the Enigma encryption system used for German military communication. This successful work is often cited as significantly shortening the duration of the second world war.
The papers initially went up for sale in an auction last year, with attempts to purchase it for public display falling short. Fortunately none of the other bidders met the hefty reserve price.
Although the collective scheme to buy the papers had raised £23,000 (approx US$37,000) from public donations, $100,000 from Google, and an unspecified amount from a private donor, it was still well short of the price the seller was looking for.
That’s now been taken care of with a donation of more than £200,000 ($213,000) from the National Heritage Memorial Fund.
The papers, which include handwritten notes, are particularly rare as for understandable security reasons most paperwork at Bletchley Park was destroyed at the end of the war.
Following the war, Turing worked on one of the first stored-program computers, which stored programs in memory rather than being physically and permanently built into the machine: in effect, what we know as a modern computer. He also led the way in the development of artificial intelligence.
Turing’s career came to an abrupt end when he lost security clearance after being convicted of being in a homosexual relationship (then a crime), for which he was sentenced to chemical castration. In 2009, then Prime Minister Gordon Brown issued an official government apology for Turing’s treatment.