I live in the town known as ‘Home of the Codebreaker’s, Bletchley (http://www.bletchleypark.org.uk) . My house is so near to the amazing Bletchley Park; Station X, I can experience the occasional Lancaster Bomber or Spitfire roaring overhead when there are special events. Quite a treat!
I have developed a real passion for the amazing place and the story of the genius, Alan Turing. Alan Turing worked at Bletchley Park during the Second World War and was instrumental in code-breaking messages of the enemy , thus shortening the war and saving countless lives.
This weekend I was fortunate to be a member of an 80 strong audience who witnessed the amazing ‘The Universal Machine’ at the New Diorama Theatre in London ( see http://newdiorama.com/whats-on/the-universal-machine). An amazing cast beautifully told the tale of Turing’s life and death. Catch it if you can , but I believe it is a short run production. Here’s hoping it makes a national tour!
The Enigma Machine I learnt to use & The cast of Universal Machine
In 1954 Alan Turing, the man who is known as the ‘father of the computer’ and artificial intelligence, was found dead at his home next to a half-eaten apple laced with cyanide.
He was only 41 years old.
His death, recorded as suicide , occurred just over two years after he was arrested for ‘gross indecency’ and subsequently tried and sentenced to ‘chemical castration’ with female hormones. This was in mid 1950’s! Not Victorian or Tudor times, but the 20th Century.
To add some context in the same year, 1954: Roger Bannister becomes the first person to break the four-minute mile, Tolkien‘s The Lord of the Rings was first published, Annie Lennox, Adam Ant and Elvis Costello were born, so was John Travolta and Oprah Winfrey.
It is not that long ago….and yet this genius was persecuted and treated in the most appalling manner.
As you reading this blog on your PC, a smart phone or ‘tablet’ , please pause and think about the immense contribution of Alan Turing. Think about what we consider to be ‘essentials’ of everyday life , consider the concept of ‘smart’ intelligent machines; surely Apple ‘Siri’ is the ultimate result of Turing’s dream ? Pause too, to contemplate the bitten apple with cyanide…may be an urban myth, but now look at the Apple logo , is this homage to Turing?
Sadly Turing’s dreams descended into nightmare as he was forced into a life of shame and was stripped of the things he had earned. However, on 10 September 2009, following an Internet campaign, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown made an official public apology on behalf of the British government for “the appalling way he was treated”. There is a copy of the ‘apology’ at Bletchley Park in a special exhibition.
Apart from sharing my feeling of shock, disgust and sadness , I wonder, have we learned from this ? Did ‘we’ persecute Turing to such an extent he felt no choice but to end his brilliant life , at the age of 41. What did the world not achieve, losing this genius at such a young age?
Consider differences as a gift, to share , to learn from each other. Consider the person who is bullied and consider their individual contribution to life . We are all UNIQUE and that is something to cherish not chastise.
Have courage …..stand up for others , even those who may be considered ‘different’.
And a link to a very beautiful and reflective Zeppelin track , Ten Years Gone…then as it was , then again it will be. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jYpydtdlWxA
and the devastating but powerful Hurt by Johnny Cash – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SmVAWKfJ4Go
Interesting links :