A new exhibition celebrating the life and works of modern computing pioneer Alan Turing has opened at the Science Museum in London to mark his 100th birthday.
Bringing together the most extensive collection of Turing artefacts ever assembled under one roof, "Codebreaker - Alan Turing's life and legacy" will explore the impact Turing's work has had on computer science in the 21st century as well as showcasing his secret codebreaking work at Bletchley Park during World War II and his post-war work at the National Physical Laboratory.
Generally acknowledged as the pioneer of British computing, Turing was tragically persecuted for his homosexuality and committed suicide two weeks before his 42nd birthday.
Some of the machines showcased at the Science Museum include the Pilot ACE computer that Turing developed for the British government at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) in 1950, as well as original German military Enigma cipher machines and the working aid used to break Enigma's code from Bletchley Park, which has never before been displayed outside the top secret UK Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ).
The fastest computer of its time, the Pilot ACE was the physical validation of Turing’s theories and most successfully used in 1954 to solve the metal fatigue problems by analysing Comet jet aircraft wreckage salvaged from the Mediterranean Sea following a series of crashes. Turing's work led to significant advances in aeroplane design.
According to David Rooney, curator for the exhibition, such is the interest in the Pilot ACE computer that the museum received requests from interested people who still wanted to use it to solve problems.
"It's a way into seeing how he thought," he said. "I don't think it's too fanciful to say that this is Alan Turing's mind made into metal and glass valves."
The exhibition will also explore other machines Alan Turing and his colleagues would have used in the war effort, and give an idea of what life was like at Bletchley Park.
The exhibition will run from 21 June until 31 July 2013.
Photograph courtesy of Science Museum / SSPL.
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