Friday, June 22, 2012

Google Doodles for Alan Turing, the father of computer science

If you go to the Google homepage today, you will see the belt of binary that will eventually spell out the word 'Google' (note, the interactivity doesn't seem to work in all browsers). The Doodle is made in honour of Alan Turing, the English mathematician and computer scientist who has been widely known as the father of computer science and artificial intelligence. Turing was born on the 23rd of June in 1912 in London. His father was a member of the Indian Civil Service and Turing was actually conceived while his parents were in Orissa. However, his parents wanted their children to grow up England and therefore returned to give birth. Turing's father's civil service was still active afterwards and throughout Turing's childhood, his father travelled frequently between England and India.

Google Doodles for Alan Turing and his algorithms

Since he was young, Turing displayed signs of being a genius, particularly with mathematics and science. However, at one of the schools that Turing went to as an adolescent, he wasn't as respected as the other schools he had gone to because this school discounted the value of science and stressed the importance of learning the classics. Turing overcame this challenge and continued to educate himself in the fields that he enjoyed studying. For college, Turing went to Kings College in Cambridge where he studied mathematics. In 1931, Turing worked on what would later be called the Turing machine. He proved that any such machine would be able to make mathematical computations if they were presented as algorithms. These machines are till this day used in the study of computer science.

During the Second World War, Turing also served as a German code breaker in England. During his time doing that, he and fellow mathematician Gordon Welchman suggested a code breaking machine that was superior to the Polish machine they were using at the time. The first machine of its type, called the bombe, was installed in March 1940 and more than two hundred such bombes were in operation by the end of the war. In 1952, Turing was arrested for homosexuality, which in England was considered gross indecency under Section 11 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885. Turing was given the choice of imprisonment or chemical castration (being injected with female hormones) and he chose the latter. This conviction stripped him of his security clearance with the British government and his work in computing with the government had to stop. In 1955, Turing was found dead and an autopsy revealed cyanide poisoning.

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