Alan Turing – set the pace and designed the basic model for all the digital computers that were to follow. The digital computer has probably had more influence on more people in the 2nd half of the 20th century than any other invention ever created. His work now influences, either directly or indirectly the lives of every person on the planet. His theories on AI are still current so his influence is likely to extend way into the 21st century as we begin to see the practical implementation of AI.
For his full bio – click here.
Alan Mathison Turing FRS OBE (born 23 June 1912 at 2 Warrington Crescent, London W9, died 7 June 1954 at his home in Wilmslow, Cheshire) contributed to mathematics, cryptanalysis, logic, philosophy, biology, and formatively to computer science, cognitive science, Artificial Intelligence and Artificial Life.
He was elected a Fellow of King's College Cambridge in March 1935, at the age of only 22. In the same year he invented the abstract computing machines - now known simply as Turing machines –
on which all subsequent stored-program digital computers are modelled.
During 1936-1938 Turing continued his studies, now at Princeton University. He completed a PhD in mathematical logic under Church's direction, analysing the notion of 'intuition' in mathematics and introducing the idea of oracular computation, now fundamental in mathematical recursion theory.
He also contributed to the attack on the cyphers known as 'Fish'. Based on binary teleprinter code, Fish was used during the latter part of the war in preference to morse-based Enigma for the encryption of high-level signals, for example messages from Hitler and other members of the German High Command. It is estimated that the work of GC&CS
shortened the war in Europe by at least two years. Turing received the Order of the British Empire for the part he played.
Turing saw that speed and memory were the keys to computing. His design had much in common with today's RISC architectures and called for a high-speed memory of roughly the same capacity as an early Macintosh computer (enormous by the standards of his day). Had Turing's ACE been built as planned it would have been in a different league from the other early computers.
…the Pilot Model ACE. With a
clock speed of 1 MHz this was for some time the fastest computer in the world. Computers deriving from Turing's original design remained in use until about 1970 (including the Bendix G15, arguably
the first personal computer).
Turing's principal practical contribution at Manchester was to design the programming system of the Ferranti Mark I, the
world's first commercially available electronic digital computer.
In March 1952 he was prosecuted for his homosexuality, then a crime in Britain, and sentenced to a period of twelve months hormone 'therapy' - shabby treatment from the country he had helped save,
which he seems to have borne with amused fortitude.
Cris