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Wednesday, April 28, 1999 Published at 16:52 GMT 17:52 UK


Computer's inventor snubbed by industry

Alan Turing: "I do think we owe him an awful lot"

An appeal to raise funds for a statue to British mathematician Alan Turing, the "father of computer science", has failed to receive the backing of a single computer company.

Sculptor Glynn Hughes, who speaks for the appeal, said he found it hard to explain why computer firms had not contributed "a single penny" to the £55,000 needed to honour their industry's founder.

Glynn Hughes: "We think he deserves commemoration"
He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "What I hear repeatedly from academics and professionals in the computer business in Britain is it's because he wasn't American."

US software giant Microsoft has since said that it is giving the appeal "urgent consideration".

Another market leader, Apple, has also said it is considering setting up a secure website which could receive credit card donations over the Internet.

Battle of the Atlantic

Alan Turing's massive contribution to computer science has been described as "epoch making".

It was during the 1930s, while at King's College, Cambridge, that he first expounded his theory of a machine that could use numbers to carry out functions similar to thought processes.

[ image: The 1999 stamp commemorating Alan Turing]
The 1999 stamp commemorating Alan Turing
He suggested it should be called an "electronic computer".

He went on to apply his work and his genius for mathematics to the problem of cracking the Enigma cipher used by German U-boats during World War II.

He deciphered it using a machine called the "Bombe" while working at the British Intelligence codebreaking centre at Bletchley Park, near Milton Keynes.

The breakthrough is credited with giving the Allies the upper hand in the Battle of the Atlantic.

'National hero'

Mr Hughes said: "The phrase that was used of him was: 'No single individual played a greater part in the winning of the war than Alan Turing.'

"I do think we owe him an awful lot."

The bronze statue of Mr Turing seated on a bench was meant to have been unveiled last year in Sackville Park, Manchester, the city where he later worked and died.

"I think a bronze statue is traditionally how we celebrate our national heroes," said Mr Hughes.

"It's got the university science buildings...on one side and its got all the gay bars on the other side, where apparently he spent most of his evenings."

Suicide by poison

The later years of Mr Turing's life were marred by his arrest and conviction in 1951 over his sexual relationship with a young Manchester man. He committed suicide with cyanide in 1954.

If plans for the statue go ahead, it will not be the first time he has been honoured.

There is already an Alan Turing Way in Manchester and last January the Royal Mail issued a 63p stamp to the great inventor, designed by the artist Sir Eduardo Paolozzi.

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