Yesterday I went to see the new film about Alan Turing, The Imitation Game. Turing was a mathematician and computer science pioneer. During World War II he was instrumental in breaking the German Enigma machines cypher, allowing the allies to decode intercepted German communications. This was invaluable to the allied war effort, and is credited with ending the war years early and saving millions of lives.
Turing was a homosexual, which at the time was illegal in the UK, he was involved in an incident that subsequently lead to his conviction for gross indecency. Upon conviction he was given the option of going to prison or being chemically castrated with hormone therapy. He chose castration. Turing died in 1954, his death was more than likely suicide by cyanide poisoning, this was the finding of the official inquest. Although others debate this, including his own mother who thought his death was accidental.
Due to the secretive nature of his work, Turing’s achievements were never acknowledged, and were buried deep in the archives. The full extent of the part he played in Hitler’s downfall was not known until documents pertaining to it were declassified under the Official Secrets Act 50 year rule.
Although it appears as if the film has many historical inaccuracies in it, I personally thought it was excellent. What the film does do is assist in correcting a 65 year wrong, by bringing to the public’s attention the role Turing played in the war and his treatment after it.
I’ve included a few links with more information about Turing, including his 1936 paper “On Computable Numbers, With an Application to the Entsheidungsproblem” and his 1950 paper “Computing Machinery and Intelligence”. Chapter one of the former is titled; The Imitation Game.