Page last updated at 05:33 GMT, Monday, 7 June 2004 06:33 UK

'Father of the computer' honoured

Alan Turing
Without Turing's genius, you might not be reading this caption

The father of the modern computer is being honoured, 50 years after he died in tragic circumstances.

Alan Turing was one of the pioneers of computer science, and his work helped make the modern PC a reality.

He was also one of the secret code breakers working at Bletchley Park during the Second World War.

He killed himself on 7 June 1954, by eating an apple he laced with cyanide. On Monday, a blue plaque will be erected outside his home in Cheshire.

Enigma buster

It was his idea of creating a machine to turn thought processes into binary numbers which was one of the key turning points in the history of the computer.

His revolutionary idea was for a machine that would read a series of ones and zeros from a tape. These described the steps needed to solve a problem or task.

Turing's experiments are credited with helping Britain win World War II by deciphering encrypted German communications, helping the Allies remain one step ahead.

Oestrogen injections

But his brilliance would not protect him from the social values of 1950s Britain, and he was taken to court because he was gay.

At the time, homosexuality was outlawed in the UK, and when Turing's relationship with a young Manchester man was discovered in 1952, he was threatened with jail.

Instead, he agreed to be injected with oestrogen for a year, in an attempt to curb his libido.

He was also denied work with GCHQ, the successor to Bletchley Park, because of his sexual orientation.

Two years after his conviction he ended his life by eating the poisoned apple.

He was discovered by his cleaner one day later.

His mother believed he had accidentally taken the cyanide after an experiment, but it is generally accepted he deliberately concocted the experiment so she could believe that.

Turing honoured

Turing may not be a household name, but his achievements have been recognised.

A road has been named after him in Manchester, where he lived for the latter years of his life when he joined Manchester University.

There is also a bronze statue of him in Sackville Park in the city's gay village, where he sits on a bench, apple in hand.

He has even featured in a Doctor Who book.

And the home of his birth in London also has a blue plaque outside, which will now be joined by a plaque outside the place of his death on Adlington Road, in Wilmslow.

The unveiling takes place at 1000 BST on Monday, in an event organised by Andrew Crompton from the University of Manchester.

Clicking for consciousness
01 Sep 00 |  Science/Nature


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