Resources for School Students

Dermot Turing with Alan Turing memorial statue in Manchester
Dermot Turing and the Alan Turing Memorial Statue in Manchester

Postgraduate and undergraduate research students are welcome to make an enquiry through the contact form on the website. Please give as much detail of your specific area of research as possible.

Alan Turing and the Turing family

Alan Turing was born into a traditional British Empire family: his father worked in the Indian Civil Service, and his brother John (Dermot Turing’s father) was born in India. Alan, however, was born in England and never visited India.

Alan Turing with his mother and brother on a beach on the South Coast of England 1913
Alan Turing with his mother and brother on a beach on the South Coast of England in 1913

He was educated at Sherborne School, where the headmaster of the time had ensured that the mathematics and science departments were staffed by good quality teachers.

Westcott House, Sherborne School, to show Alan Turing's study on the ground floor
Alan Turing’s Study (behind the staircase) in Westcott House, Sherborne School.

Alan Turing’s career took off when, while still a graduate student at King’s College Cambridge, he wrote his most famous paper, On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem. This paper is widely regarded as laying the theoretical foundations of computer science, a field in which Alan continued to work actively for the rest of his life.

Image of first page of "On Computable Numbers"

He is probably best known for his work at Bletchley Park during World War 2, where he was a leading member of the team solving the many problems posed by the German Enigma enciphering machine, made famous by the movie The Imitation Game starring Benedict Cumberbatch.

Bletchley Park Mansion
Bletchley Park Mansion

After Bletchley, Alan Turing worked on computer design at the National Physical Laboratory, producing the design for the Automatic Computing Engine (ACE) by the end of 1945. He then moved to work with with M.H.A Newman in the new Royal Society Computing Laboratory at Manchester University in 1948. He caused quite a stir when he was interviewed by The Times newspaper:

…research would be directed to finding the degree of intellectual activity which a machine was capable of,and to what extent it would think for itself.

Alan Turing, The Times, 11th June, 1949

He went on to propose “The Turing Test” in his paper “Computing Machinery and Intelligence“, published in Mind in 1950. In this “Imitation Game” a computer pretends to be a human and the human judge has to judge whether she or he is dealing with a machine or another human being.

Alan Turing (standing) with colleagues working on the Manchester Mark 1 computer
Alan Turing (standing) with colleagues working on the Manchester Mark 1 computer

Alan Turing’s final field of research was on the growth and development of living things (morphogenesis). He postulated that the behaviour of the chemicals in a developing animal or plant might be modelled mathematically and that the model might give answers to questions about how a perfectly symmetrical object can develop into an organism that is asymmetrical with specialised parts. He published his paper “The Chemical Basis of Morphogenesis” in 1952. It is now viewed as one of the foumding theories of mathematical biology. At the time his work was purely theoretical, but recently scientists have been able to demonstrate Turing patterns forming as a result of the interaction of chemicals in several animal systems.

Alan Turing’s Legacy

Alan Turing founded computer science and artificial intelligence, he was one of the great mathematical logicians of the mid-twentieth century and also laid the foundations of mathematical biology.

His remarkable achievements were recognised in 2019 when he was voted as the nation’s icon of the 20th century in BBC Two’s Icons finale.

The Bank of England ‘unveiled’ the new plastic £50 note which features Alan Turing and which is due to be released in June 2021. The new design is not just a celebration of the well-known achievements of Alan Turing but gives us all a chance to reappraise his legacy. It is time to use this to look forward and inspire everybody, no matter their gender or race to fulfil their potential and contribute to the mathematical and scientific achievements of the future.

To quote the great man himself:

We can only see a short distance ahead, but we can see plenty there that needs to be done.

Alan Turing, 1950
Governor of the Bank of England, Andrew Bailey, is joined by Stephen Fry and Dr Simon Singh to unveil the design of the new £50 banknote featuring Alan Turing.

Further sources of information

Dermot’s books on Alan Turing provide a wealth of information.

When Dermot Turing is asked about his famous uncle, people want to know more than the bullet points of his life. They want to know everythin – was Alan Turing actually a codebreaker? What did he make of artificial intelligence? What is the significance of Alan Turing’s trial, his suicide, the Royal Pardon, the £50 note and the film The Imitation Game?

READ MORE

Prof Alan Turing decoded paperback cover
Alan Turing was an extraordinary man who crammed into a life of only 42 years the careers of mathematician, codebreaker, computer scientist and biologist. He is widely regarded as a war hero grossly mistreated by his unappreciative country and it has become hard to disentangle the real man from the story. It is easy to cast him as a misfit, the stereotypical professor. But actually Alan Turing was never a professor, and his nickname ‘Prof’ was given by his codebreaking friends at Bletchley Park.

READ MORE

Today, Alan Turing is a well-recognised name, but it was not always so. Until the last few years of the 20th century hardly anyone had heard of him or his achievements. All that changed when the British government permitted the story of Bletchley Park during the Second World War to emerge.

READ MORE

Dermot has also given many talks on the subject – the following are just a selection of those that are available:

Alan Turing Decoded: An Evening with Sir Dermot Turing. International Spy Museum, Washington.
Prof: Alan Turing Decoded | Dermot Turing | Talks at Google
Who created the computer? Alan Turing? Or was it Marian Rejewski? G-Research Lecture Series
The origins of Enigma codebreaking at Bletchley. Kellogg College, Oxford

Alan Turing and the Birth of Artificial Intelligence, USI (Unexpected Sources of Inspiration)
Alan Turing, Artificial Intelligence, and Stamp Collecting, Casa de Cultură a Studenţilor

Useful Websites

Alan Turing: The Enigma, maintained by biographer Andrew Hodges

The Turing Archive for the History of Computing, maintained by Jack Copeland and Diane Proudfoot

The Turing Digital Archive contains images of many of Turing’s letters, talks, photographs and unpublished papers that are held in the Turing collection at King’s College, Cambridge, as well as memoirs and obituaries written about him.

Sourcing Photographs of Alan Turing for a Publication or Documentary

The Turing family transferred its archive of photographs of Alan Turing to King’s College, Cambridge. They are held as part of the Turing Digital Archive under reference AMT/K/7. Requests for permission to reproduce can be sent to archivist@kings.cam.ac.uk or by post to: The Archivist, King’s College, Cambridge CB2 1ST.

%d bloggers like this: