Have you been watching the Icons series on BBC2? It’s caused a lot of debate about who makes the list in the first place, but it is a series trying to identify the most important person of the 20th century across a range of fields.
I enjoyed the Science episode that included Marie Curie with her work on X-rays and radiation; Albert Einstein with physics and maths and Tu Youyou with her work in pharmaceuticals. All were impressive, of course, but it was Alan Turing with the Bombe and groundbreaking work and ideas leading to the development of modern computers who won the day for me. Do you agree, or did one of the others on the shortlist win the debate for you?
A very (very) potted history – Turing wrote a paper in 1936 describing his ideas for a universal computing machine and further developed this for his PhD in 1938. During the Second World War he worked on the famous Bombe to decode encrypted messages from the German Enigma machine (and would run the 40 miles from Bletchley Park to London when he was needed for meetings, just for fun). After the War he worked on the design for ACE (automatic computing engine), a stored program computer, following which he wrote Intelligent Machinery. In 1948 Turing was made Deputy Director of the Computing Machine Laboratory at Victoria University of Manchester where he developed the Turing Test which is still used to determine whether a machine thinks as a human or not. In 1951 he published his work on morphogenesis – the development of patterns and shapes in biology.
A working reconstruction of the Bombe was finished in 2007 and is on display in the National Museum of Computing, on the Bletchley Park site.
Fortunately, due to some excellent records management at the time, almost everything Turing wrote has been preserved in archives, with most of it also accessible online.
Our specialist heritage storage facility is in ex-Cold War hardened aircraft shelters, protected by innovative 21st-century technology. And when it comes to protecting all that information on your computer system – data beyond Turing’s wildest imagination – we can make it easy for you by looking after your back-ups – whether cloud based or as magnetic tapes.
Just give us a call on 0333 060 5630 to speak to a member of our knowledgeable, friendly team.
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