Alan Turing: The Father of Modern Computer Science

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The computers today are extremely advanced. They have progressed far faster than scientists years ago would have even dreamed. A lot of the things that Science Fiction movies used as gags that seemed impossible back when they were created are now realities. Just look at the smartphone, the idea of them was used as a marvelous futuristic technology in Star Trek, and now they are an everyday commodity. However, many will argue that this is due to the ideas of one man, Alan Turing. If not for his contributions to the computing world, many of today’s inventions and progressions in technology may not have even been possible.

Before talking about how revolutionary his contributions to the computing world has been, there is a necessity to start at the beginning. Alan Turing, born on June 23, 1912, was always an extraordinary person. Throughout his schooling days, he would often be found alone, staring at things and studying how they worked. There is a famous drawing that has him in it where all of the other kids are participating in a sport and Turing is bending over, examining a patch of flowers. He was always a solitary person, however he liked sports. That made it so that his sport of choice was Track and Field, one of the most solitary sports imaginable.

Even though he was an extremely solitary person, Turing did find solace in the form of Christopher Morcom. Morcom is often referred to, even by Turing himself, as Turing’s “one true friend”. He and Morcom were very close, eventually this caused Turing to form an incredible bond with him. Morcom had become Turing’s first love. However, this love never really got the chance to go anywhere, because on February 13, 1930, Morcom died suddenly of tuberculosis.

The death of his one first love caused Turing to go back into being a solitary person. He spent a lot of time with himself. However, this caused Turing to have one of the most amazing ideas to ever happen to the computing world. He developed the concept of the Turing Machine. This concept would become the basis of what many computers still use today. The machine had a censor that would interpret the data, while another portion of the data would convert it into something that the computer could understand: binary. Every computer today still uses this system, interpreting different types of data and reforming it into something that the computer can understand. This basic idea, and Turing’s concept of algorithms and computation as a whole are the main reasons why Turing is known as the father of modern computer science.

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While all of these accomplishments may seem to be enough to make anybody become an amazing asset to the computing world, there is still more that this extraordinary man has done to help the computing world, as well as the government. During World War 2, the Germans were sending encrypted messages back and forth in a language that soon became known as Enigma. In an effort to break this code, the British government called in all types of extraordinary minds from around the nation to try and crack this code. Turing was one of them. He became a type of leader to this group. However, it was his invention, the Enigma Machine, that caused the government to crack this seemingly uncrackable encryption.

Even with the accomplishment of solving the unsolvable, Turing was mistreated a lot throughout his life. Turing was gay, in a time when being gay was against the law in Britain. He still partook in a lot of homosexual activity, not getting caught and using the secrecy to try and get over Morcom, however this did not last long. He had been caught a number of times, being arrested and forced to go through chemical castration. While it is not known exactly what drug they made Turing take, it is known that it had severe side effects on his body. However, this did not stop Turing, and he kept on doing what he was born to do.

Even though he was happy for a time, the chemical castration made it hard for him to maintain that happiness. Chemical castration has many side effects on men like the shrinking of the testicles, the growth of breasts, the inability to use the penis, and many other side effects. However, there is one side effect that contributed to the tragic end of Turing’s life the most. The clouding of the mind. Turing was not able to think straight throughout the entire ordeal, often losing focus quickly. This caused Turing too slowly, but surely, slip into a severe depression.

The depressive state of Turing did not fully take over until one particular incident happened. Turing had taken a trip to the Netherlands. This made him feel as though Britain was a terrible place for a gay person to be, since it was not illegal to be gay in the Netherlands. While there, Turing had wanted to learn Dutch, and met a wonderful man with whom he had an amazing time with. However, when the man tried to visit Turing in Britain, the government ran him out. The government had been keeping a close eye on Turing, believing that a homosexual man with his knowledge of classified information could not be trusted to keep his mouth shut about it. This episode caused Turing to fall even deeper into his depression, until it was too late to save him any longer.

Turing had told his therapist one day that he found that the story of Snow White had given him an idea on how a man was able to commit suicide with an apple. The Therapist insisted that Turing stay, but Turing reassured him that it was just a hypothetical. However, he then proceeded to tell the therapist, who was also a close friend of Turing, that he would not be able to make it to dinner, before storming out of the session. On June 7, 1954, Alan Turing’s body was found next to a half eaten apple. He had committed suicide and died of cyanide poisoning at only 41 years old.

The death of Turing is regarded by many as one of the worst things to have happened to computing. If Turing had been treated better, especially since he had been a major reason for all of the advancement in computer science, many would argue that computers would be far more advanced than they are today. His untimely death caused the progress of computing to slow down tremendously. Even though computers are still progressing at a remarkable rate, there is no telling how advanced they would be if Turing had lived longer.

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