What’s in a namesake? The Legacy of Alan Turing
What else is behind his story and our school's namesake?
Alan Turing, born June 23, 1912, is widely known as the father of computer science. One of his earliest contributions is proposing what came to be known as the Turing machine. This was the foundation for the computer and could hypothetically solve any math problem. He also developed the Turing test: his idea that a machine could be called intelligent if a person talking to it could not tell whether it was machine or human.
Perhaps what he is most well known for is putting his mathematical theories to the test during World War 2. He was recruited as a codebreaker and invented a machine that could run narrow billions of possible keys down to a handful and decipher the German’s encrypted messages.
His work helped to save thousands of lives during the war. His team was credited by some for hastening the allies success and ending the war at least two years earlier than it would have without his support.
Of course, Alan Turing’s contributions to computer science and demonstration of how technology can be used to save the world are a big part of why he is the namesake of the Turing School of Software and Design.
A lesser known part of his story is that he was a gay man. When his home was burglarized in 1952, Alan Turing casually mentioned that he was seeing a man to the police. He was arrested and pled guilty to “gross indecency,” and rather than spend a year in prison, was given female hormones for a year.
He was persecuted simply for being who he was, at the hands of his own government and died a year later, shortly before his 42nd birthday in 1954.
Not only is Alan Turing a brilliant computer scientist, but his story is a reminder that hate and ignorance can rob us of people and ideas that should be celebrated.
When naming the Turing School, our founder wanted to honor the father of computer science and also have a reminder that the world missed out on the full spectrum of genius because of oppression, and it is our mission to do all we can to prevent loss like that for humanity.
Did you know the full story of Alan Turing? This Pride month, join us in sharing his story with the world. We are proud to have our school carry his name every day.
This blog post was written with research from Queer Portraits in History. Check out their compendium of queer people and their stories from the 19th and 20th centuries.