Saturday, September 05, 2009

Alan Turing (continued)

No sign yet of any Newsround report about Alan Turing, but on Thursday Newsnight included an interesting report by Susan Watts.

The importance of Alan Turing cannot be overstated. I wrote about him in one of my earliest blogs.

So why is he such a significant figure?

Well, he was gay. Now, that fact alone doesn't make him better than anyone else. But importantly, it doesn't make him worse than anyone else either. That message is fundamental to understanding what this blog is all about. Because there are still loads of people in the real world - including people working at the BBC - who think it's not OK to be gay. And there are those, like Jonathan Ross and Chris Moyles, who think it's cool to laugh at, or make fun of gay people.

Yes, Alan Mathison Turing was gay. But unlike many others at the time, he was gay and not ashamed of it. In addition Turing was honest - these days a rare quality in public life.

Alan Turing arrived at Bletchley Park on 4 September 1939, just as Bletchley's population was swelling due to Operation Pied Piper.

In 1941 Turing and three of his colleagues sent a letter to Churchill (pdf) explaining what had already been achieved but at the same time requesting more staff and resources to help with codebreaking. Churchill recognised the importance of their work. He responded with a memo: ACTION THIS DAY - Make sure they have all they want on extreme priority and report to me that this had been done.

It is reckoned that the deciphering work carried out at Bletchley Park helped shorten the war by about two years.

Excerpt from Breaking the Code

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