Alan M. Turing Life History Summary



In the short time Alan M. Turing was alive he accomplished more for the field computer science than any other one person. To honor Turing the Association for Computing Machinery (the ACM) established the “Turing Award” in 1966 and is given annually to an individual for his or her outstanding contribution to the science of computing. Turing’s personal life was troubling for him partly because of his homosexuality but mostly because aptitude for science and mathematics left him with little time for a personal life.

Turing had quite an impressive education including time at Cambridge, Princeton University. His work began postgraduate. So, his anxiousness to begin a serious career could easily be seen. Turing’s mathematical skill also played an important part in bringing World War Two to an end. He has published papers that are now celebrated in the field of mathematics and computing. For this I consider Alan M. Turing to have accomplished more for the field of computer science than any other one person.


Alan Turing was born June 23, 1912, to Julius Mathison and Ethel Sara Turing in London, England. Ethel Sara Turing was married from the family Stoney. The Stoneys were a family of scientific distinction. This might have been where Alan’s interest first was innately born. Alan’s father worked for the British government at the Indian Civil Service. Young Turing’s life was nothing but normal. He was sent to preparatory school, like any upper-class family’s son, at an early age and there his education began.

Turing attended prep schools until enrolling at Sherborne in 1926. His interest in mathematics and science was impressive to his teachers. He found that he would rather start from the base of every problem and work through to the end opposed to using the answers already given to him. At the same time, his indifference to writing, Latin, and other English subjects astonished them. After his time at Sherborne, he enrolled at King’s College, Cambridge as a mathematics scholar in 1931. There he began his studies in math and logistics still determined not to pay attention to those subjects that did not interest him. In Cambridge, he was elected a fellow of King’s in 1935 and won the Smith’s Award in 1936. It was also there that he began the work that would lead him to his best-known results, on computable numbers and the “Turing machine”.

Turing’s paper on computable numbers received much attention and he was invited to attend at Princeton University. From 1936 to 1938 he worked with Professor Alonzo Church. In 1938 he returned to Cambridge and in 1939 the war broke out. Turing would spend the next six years at Bletchley (the Government Code and Cypher School).In 1945 he went to work for the National Physical Laboratory (NPL).

At the NPL, Turing made the first plan for the Automatic Computing Machine for the Association for Computing Engineering (ACE). He did a great deal of pioneering work in subroutines. During this time he was awarded “the Order of the British Empire” for his roll in deciphering the German code in World War II. The machine was still incomplete when he left in 1948.

In 1948 he was appointed to a readership at the University of Manchester. At the University of Manchester, F.C. Williams and T. Kilburn headed the initial work on the construction of a computing machine. It was understood that Turing would head up the mathematical side of the project. He continued work on subroutines that would be utilized by the computing machine.

Turing found that he had a gift for humorous conversation when he took part in the “brain vs. machines” discussions of the 1940s. He loved to confuse the minds of those who thought that there was an impassable gap between the two. He challenged them by asking them to produce a paper that could be passed by a man and not by a machine.

His time and his work at Bletchley has still not been well documented and the three papers he wrote before showed what he could have accomplished if he had been free to work on what he was most interested in. His work there was of a highly classified nature and has still not yet been declassified. It is certainly thought that there he gained knowledge of pulse techniques and applies the knowledge to his later endeavors.

After the war, he felt a violent urge to release some pent up angst so he took up long-distance running. He found that like mathematics he also had an apt for physical endurance. He won the three-mile race ad ten-mile race championships of the club he attended (the Walton Athletic Club).  He did so in record time. In 1947 he was placed fifth in the Amateur Athletic Association Marathon race.


Turing was found guilty of “unnatural acts” by British courts in 1952. The “unnatural acts” were referring to his homosexuality. The courts forced him to take female hormones in order to relieve him of his sexual pro wave. In result, Turing grew breasts and became deeply depressed. Turing died in 1945 in Manchester by his own hand. He died shortly after eating an apple dipped in strychnine.

Alan Mathison Turing was a mathematical genius and it is apparent that he was at the height of his intellect when he died. His understanding and new ideas in mathematics and logic paved the way for the first automatic computing machine. Alan Turing had accomplished more in his time on earth for the field of computer science.



Goralaski, Robert (1981). World War II Almanac. 1931 – 1945. New York, G.P. Putnam’s Sons.

Lee, J.A.N. (1995). Computer Pioneers.  California, IEEE Computer Society Press.

Ralston, Athony (1983). Encyclopedia of Computer Science and Engineering 2nd ed. New York, Van Nostrand Reinhold Company


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