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Alan Turing

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Alan Turing, the name instantly reminds me of a cloudy winter morning in high school, when I was sitting in a dimly lit classroom, waiting for my computer science class to begin. The words "Turing Version 6.0" popped on to my computer screen as the program began to load under the dreadful crackling noise produced by the old dusty modem. I often wondered why it was called Turing, and it is now clear where the computer program got its name.

In 1912, Alan Mathison Turing was born in Paddington, London, to Julius Mathison and Ethel Sara Stoney. When Turing was young, he was sent to Hazlehurst Preparatory School and as an average student, he was already full of bright ideas. At 14, he completed his Common Entrance Examination and went to Sherborne Public School. There, he won almost every mathematics prize possible. He felt that public school education did not satisfy his intellectual needs and towering expectations. His interests in chemistry and mathematics did not stop him from performing his own experiments and developing studies unknown to his teachers.

During his early years, Turing developed a great friendship with Christopher Marcom, of whom he shared his intellectual and scientific experiments and thoughts with until Marcom's sudden death in 1930.

When Turing turned 19, he entered King's College at Cambridge to study math. Turing's achievements at Cambridge had been on account of his work in probability theory. He graduated later in 1934 and two years later, Turing received the Smith's Prize for independently discovering the central limit theorem, a concept still taught today in a statistics class at the University of Toronto. In addition to his year of success, he published his renowned paper, "On Computable Numbers, with an application to the Entscheidungsproblem", where he introduced an abstract machine, now known as a "Turing machine". This gadget moved from one state to another using a precise finite set of rules provided by a finite table and depended on a single symbol it read from a tape. The concept of this machine was an important development of today's digital computers. Perhaps the most remarkable feature of Turing's work on Turing machines was that he was able to describe a modern computer before technology was even proficient enough to construct a realistic proposition. As well, he proposed a method called the "Turing test", a way to examine whether machines have the ability to think, a theory still tested today.

Despite his ingenious introduction of modern day computers, Turing became a graduate student at Princeton University and further developed the fundamentals of constructing a computer. In his later studies, he began building an analogue mechanical device to investigate the Riemann hypothesis, which is still considered today as the biggest impenetrable problem in mathematics.

Once World War II blasted, he was almost immediately contracted by the Government Code and Cypher school at Bletchley Park to break the German Enigma Codes, and eventually became the chief scientific figure in Allied code breaking. At the time, he was specifically commanded to break the U-Boat Enigma system that was vital to the Atlantic war. His incredible code-solving capabilities



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