Truth About Alan Turing’s (‘Imitation Game”) Death

Truth About Alan Turing’s (‘Imitation Game”) Death

In our  review of Telluride Film Fest #41 feature (and now Oscar contender) “The Imitation Game,” we described a film that found its way to the top of everyone’s must-see list over Labor Day weekend. The epicenter of the story is Alan Turing, played by superstar Benedict Cumberbatch, the British quant jock, logician and cryptologist, also pioneer in the field of artificial intelligence. Turing was a double outsider: almost certainly autistic and definitely gay in the day when homosexuality was flat out illegal. Heard on a line back in September: the man wound up offing himself by putting cyanide into an apple and taking a bite. A familiar image? Urban legend has it that Turing’s suicide was the inspiration for Apple’s logo, Steven Jobs’ tribute to the man who was a forefather of modern-day computers. But people who should know say “it ain’t so.” In fact, knowledgeable sources believe Turing may have been murdered by British security forces out of fear that, as a homosexual, he represented a security threat. And apparently the apple was never tested for cyanide. Regardless, both fables are nods to the Borgias.

The truth about Turing’s death is revealed in this article by David Freeman of the Huff Post.

Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turang in “The Imitation Game."

Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing in “The Imitation Game.”

Sixty years after his tragic death, the brilliant English mathematician Alan Turing (1912-1954) has come back to life, if only virtually, in the new movie The Imitation Game.

The movie spotlights Turing’s work as a codebreaker during World War II. That’s a logical choice given his success in cracking a key German naval code known as Enigma.

The feat, which is believed to have shortened the war by at least two years and saved millions of lives, led Winston Churchill to say that Turing had made the single biggest contribution to the Allied victory over the Nazis.

But if cracking Enigma was Turing’s most tangible achievement, his greatest scientific legacy is his earlier theoretical work in the field now known as computer science. So says Andrew Hodges (pictured above), the author of “Alan Turing: The Enigma,” the newly republished 1983 Turing biography on which The Imitation Game was based.

“The thing that really singles him out is his theoretical work in the 1930s, published at the end of 1936 [in his famous paper On Computable Numbers], in which he brought up this idea of the universal Turing machine,” Hodges says in a recent interview with The Huffington Post’s senior science editor, David Freeman. “And he said, rather tantalizingly, we can now invent a machine…and that really is the generalized idea of the computer as we now know it…”

Alan Turing

Alan Turing

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