Many outstanding personalities have made a significant contribution into the development of science or arts. Their talent and extraordinary way of thinking has demonstrated that a person is capable of changing the world for better by developing theories and implementing them into practice. Their inventions and discoveries will always be remembered as they have greatly influenced the course of the history. One of such talented personalities is Alan Turing. His contribution to computing and allied sciences is hardly overestimated. Some habitual concepts of today were Turings’s innovative ideas of the 19th century. This paper will tell about the life and work of Alan and demonstrate that current communication models have significantly changed due to his valuable inventions.
Family and Education
A significant contribution of Alan Turing to the development of computer science has aroused the interest of bibliographers to his life. His roots date back to the 14th century, namely to Turins of Foveran, Aberdeenshire. There was baronetcy in the family, created by John Turing in about 1638. “Fortune helps the daring” was the motto of the Turings. However, Alan’s ancestors had never been lucky. Many male representatives died in different war actions. By 1911, only three clusters of Turings had stayed alive. The junior branch was represented by John Robert Turing, who was Alan’s grandfather. He abandoned his mathematics studies at Cambridge and left for Nottinghamshire. John married and became a father of ten children. Two of them died at the infant age; and four boys and four girls were brought in the conditions of moderate poverty. Their father died in 1883 because of the stroke; and later their mother became invalid. Jean, the eldest daughter, was a head of the family. She started her own school and hired two of her sisters as school teachers. The second son, Julius Mathison Turing, was Alan’s father. “For his life as a young man was a model of success”. He entered the prestigious Indian Civil Service and was a bright student. He started working for the administration of the Presidency of Madras. Julius studied Indian languages and occupied a position of Head Assistant Collector in 1906. Alan’s mother, Ethel Sara Stoney, descended from the generation of the empire-builders and was sent to Ireland to study, when she was a child. The family was wealthy; and Ethel as a young lady was leading an aristocratic lifestyle. She met Julius on board of the homebound ship. He proposed to Ethel in 1907; and they married in Dublin. Later they returned to British India. The couple’s elder son was four years old, when Alan was born in England in 1912. It was a complicated period for the British history, full of disturbances, suffragists, crises, and almost a civil war in Ireland. However, the young Turings had an intention to take the best of what the nineteenth century has prepared for them. Alan Mathison Turing was born on 23 June at a nursing home of Paddington. Bowen indicates that the boy was born at Colonnade Hotel Maida Vale, London. Nobody knew then that the birth of this kid would in a consequence change the history of computing and communication.
When Alan was one year old, his father had to return to India to work. He decided that the British climate and atmosphere was healthier for boys. Thus, John left his sons with a retired army couple and left for India with his wife. Mrs. Ward, the old lady, who took care of the small Turings, believed that the boys should become real men. She tried to follow this model of educating them. However, Mrs. Ward had to write letters to Mrs. Turning, complaining at the boys as being naughty. When Mrs. Turing came to England to visit her sons as often as she could, she had spent much time with them, trying to show them what a real family atmosphere means. At the age of three, Alan could talk well and demonstrated others his ability to attract people’s attention. The boy learned to read very quickly, but was even brighter at recognizing figures. He expressed some unusual interest to serial numbers, when he saw them on lamp posts in the street. His first ambition was to become a doctor. For the beginning, he was sent to a private school in 1918. However, the Turings did not live well; and it was difficult for them to pay for this institution. Therefore, their boys changed it for a public school. Alan had always stayed a bright and joyful little boy. As he was growing, he was becoming more interested in geography, different recipes, and formulae. Alan’s mother noticed that by the age of 10 that her son had changed and became more closed and dreamy. That was the period, when Alan Turing’s genius was starting to open.
School activities and regime seemed boring to Alan. His interest in geography and maps was growing. His results in geography tests were much better than his brother’s. Alan thought that school did not give children a chance to be engaged in the activities, which they liked. These views were revealed in his dreamy passivity. The year 1922 changed a lot in Alan’s understanding of the surrounding world. He read the book Natural Wonders that Every Child Should Know and told his mother that this book had changed his perception of reality. Alan started thinking about the cells of human beings, the processes that took place, and about their connection. He began inventing some small and simple things of paper and plastic, like some original pens. Mr. Turing had to move much because of changing his job positions. His family followed him; and with each new place Alan’s interests developed and expanded. Thus, he started learning French. He used this language for creating some codes and sending cards with these codes to his mother. Alan’s interest in sciences, especially in mathematics, deepened when the boy attended Sherborne School. In 1931, Alan entered the King’s College, Cambridge, though he did not win the scholarship at once, he did it for his second attempt. In 1934 – 1935, Alan Turing got interested in the mathematical logic due to the lectures of Max Newman. “But logic was neither Turing’s immediate nor his only choice”. In 1935, he issued the work on probability theory, which explained the aspects, in which Turing was precisely interested. Alan was more a mathematician, who applied himself to logic and started formulating questions about Hilbert’s Entscheidungsproblem at the age of 23. These questions and the consequent answers made Turing an outstanding personality in computer science.
Work and Scientific Contribution
Any educated person has at least once heard the name of Alan Turing. Some people have a general idea of his invention and discoveries. Discussing the contribution of Turing, it is important to name not only his famous deciphering of Enigma, but cover all other works and spheres of his activities. Bowen concisely enumerates the following: “the universal machine (1936), codebreaking (WW II), computers and computing (1946), artificial Intelligence (1950), morphogenesis (1952)”. All these aspects are interrelated; and in order to find their common point, it is important to reveal what thought Turing had on computability, logic, and communication, in general. Thus, Cooper (“The Incomputable”) writes that Turing always wanted to take things, which were the simplest in nature and create other matters, wasting the least amount of energy. As it has been mentioned above, he challenged Entscheidungsproblem (Hilbert’s problems). Hilbert, a German mathematician, wanted to find a set of basic truths to prove all the mathematical statements without giving any contradictory answers. This mathematician wanted to know whether there was an algorithm to determine the truthfulness of a statement. He received the first answer from Gödel, who stated that it was impossible for the number of arithmetic statements to be complete and consistent. The question of decidable mathematics was left for Turing. The young scientist gave an answer to it in his work On Computable Numbers in 1936 and this paper has “embodied concessions that the soon-to-become dominant recursive function theoretic framework clearly did not”. Turing offered to combine intuition and ingenuity to regard mathematical reasoning. It is important to note that Alonzo Church, an American mathematician, formulated the similar problem a little earlier than Turing. Therefore, Alan went to Princeton to study from Church and earned his PhD there. The final conclusion of Turing was the fact that it was possible to give some mathematical filling to physical and mental processes. He is considered the father of computability as all his life he had tried to prove that the universe computes with success. Following the ideas of Gödel and Church, Turning managed to build mathematical models for the computable dimension of accidental relations.
The notion of some vague effective computability was not enough for Turing. Therefore, he decided to move to more practical revelations of his ideas. Cooper states that “A specially important part of what the 24 year-old Alan Turing did was to base his investigation of the extent of the computable on a new machine-like model”. This model was named Turing machine and is defined as “an infinite loop of squares, containing either zero or one, passing through a device, which can either change or retain that symbol. Such a machine can solve any problem, which can be clearly stated”. On the basis of his ideas, Turing also developed the so-called Turing test. The essence of this test is as follows: if a person, sitting at one terminal, is linked to another terminal, interacts with this different terminal and cannot say whether it is operated by a person or by a machine, the machine has passed the Turing test. This test is based on the imitation game. A human respondent was offered to recognize whether the actions were performed by a person or by a machine. Turing hoped that in some time the computers would become so exact and well-programmed that the human tester would never correctly answer the question of Turing test. Therefore, there is nothing very complicated in the mathematician’s discoveries. However, he was one of the first scientists to realize how the universe functioned.
Alan Turing had moved forward with his theory and machine model during the WW II. He became a member of a group, which was trying to decipher the secret code of the Nazis machine (Enigma), which they used to send messages. Turing restored the design of the German machine on the basis of the information delivered to him by the former Nazi officer. As a result, the allied forces had a chance to read all the messages sent by the Germans during the WW II. Winston Churchill highly appreciated Turing’s contribution to the common victory. His genius was impossible to stop. In 1946, he designed the first automatic computing engine. He is considered to be the father of artificial intelligence. He believed that by building mechanisms, which simulated people’s functions, it was possible to learn more about people as living creatures in general. One more important contribution of Alan Turing was his investigation devoted to morphogenesis. His paper with the provocative title The Chemical Basis of Morphogenesis was aimed at proving that“pattern formation can be accomplished by the interaction of two substances that spread with different rates”. Therefore, Turing was the first one to state that in such systems a homogenous stable state is unsteady and any minute local deviation from this state may cause the onset of the pattern information. His theory was recognized not quite accurate, but very close to other concepts, which were later documented. Taking into consideration the discussed inventions and works of Turing, it is possible to conclude that the scientist influenced the entire world science. He gave a new perspective to human communications.
Being the founder of the artificial intelligence and computing as a part of people’s life, Alan completely has changed the people’s idea about communication. After computers entered the human life in 1969 the world saw the Arpanet, which was the ancestor of the Internet. The integration of computers and communications “has taken communications beyond the role of an application of computing to become an integral part of the conceptual and actual computational world in which we live”. Turing invented new ways of processing and developing the transferred information. His theories of computing have changed the people’s forms of communication forever. Nowadays everybody considers chatting, using their computers, telephones and other devices to be absolutely normal. Turing was the first person to invent the basis of this system. The scientist stated that machines were capable of behaving with intelligence and introduced the concept of mechanistic mind. At the very beginning, Alan Turing saw that it was possible to modify the process defined for the machines to follow and create a session of telecommunication in such a way. Nowadays it is difficult to believe that the ideas of communicating using computers had been unreal before Alan Turing expressed his theories about artificial intelligence. People can be thankful to the scientist for his profound influence on the communication means, which they possess today.
To conclude, it is important to note that the personality of Alan Turing is worth a special attention. This person was a definitely born genius as the ideas, which he expressed, actually, have changed the world. He followed some earlier theories and led them to logic conclusions. He introduced the concept of artificial intelligence and made computers equal participants of a communication process. He proved that computers could be programmed to assist people in solving mathematical, logical, and all other types of tasks. The contribution of modern programmers and scholars into computer science is significant and will always be highly appreciated by the humanity. However, the name of Alan Turing, the founder of computing, should never be forgotten.