Alan Turing, the Father of Computer Science

Charles Petzold was kind enough to send me a copy of his new book, The Annotated Turing: A Guided Tour Through Alan Turing's Historic Paper on Computability and the Turing Machine.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original blog entry at:

zomg first

Don’t forget Von Neuman. While we owe a lot to Turing, we actually program against Von Neuman machines.

He was also one of the original people involved in Game Theory if my memory serves me right.

Wow just reading the wikipedia page on him shows how awesome a mind he was. Cellular Automata, Game Theory, Manhattan Project and the list goes on.

Why does it seem that so many of the greatest minds of history always have to meet a bitter end, only to be truly honored post-mortem?

Alan Turing, I salute you. If it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t have been able to develop my passion for computer science. Instead, I’d be spending my days… I dunno, counting beans, or whatever it is that non-computer science people do.

Well-written as always, Jeff. I was surprised to hear the name Charles Petzold in conjunction with Turing but I should’ve known. I’ve gotten a ton of use out of Petzold’s Windows books and will probably pick this one up in due time.

Hey, and speaking of Turing tests, is CAPTCHA still dead (long live the CAPTCHA?)

Alan Turing contributed to computer science in a great way.
But passion for computer science is different from passion for computers. The former tells about theory while the later involves hardware/software.
I think the Theory is far more better than the hardware/software. It is far more involving. It is far more powerful, and more beautiful.

Never knew about his death before. Poetic, and so sad.

I’m a huge Turing fan. Unfortunately, his behavior-centric Turing Test has misguided a generation of AI researchers into attempting to reverse-engineer intelligence rather than understand the nature of intelligence at a biological level.

I didn’t realize this, but apparently the Turing book is a de-facto sequel to Petzold’s Code …

… which I loved:

Sometimes it’s simply annoying to see this kind of idol worshiping. Sure they made great contributions to the humanity but why should we make gods out of them constantly?

I really don’t have sympathy for how his life ended… at least he got the chance to choose, which further disturbs me - if he’s of such a great intellect, why off yourself? It would seem obvious that someone of that intellectual caliber would do the opposite of what he did; to further his studies through an extended-lifelong journey of professing the beauty of computing science… live to see new and radical advances in the technology you love. But we’ll never really know how that would’ve turned out or what he would’ve accomplished.

if he’s of such a great intellect, why off yourself?

Did you read what exactly happened to him?

I’m not saying suicide is ever the right choice, but what Petzold describes there is horrifying. (As is the first comment to that post, but that’s a different topic, sadly…)

why should we make gods out of them constantly?

Where are we doing that? All I want to do is learn from Turing in some small way, and Petzold’s book is a fine way to do that.

The documentary…

…is an interesting look at the life of Turing, as well as other influential mathematicians, giving context to the work he did.

Patrick, i don’t suppose you were a homosexual in those days?.. And honoring != deifying.

And don’t forget the one, who built the first Turing Complete computer:
Konrad Zuse (

Did you read the book? What did you think of the book? Neither of these things were mentioned in the post.

Is there a link with the Apple logo and the apple Turing ate?

1 - Wikipedia lists some doubts about whether his death was a suicide:

Most believe that his death was intentional, and the death was ruled a suicide. His mother, however, strenuously argued that the ingestion was accidental due to his careless storage of laboratory chemicals

2 - The Apple logo has nothing to do with Alan Turing, that is urban legend:
a curious urban legend exists that the bitten apple is a homage to the mathematician Alan Turing,

I did a report on Turing in college and outlined all of the crazy stuff involved with his homosexuality. His arrest was very controversial, because In England the laws against buggery (having sex you know where) went in and out of activity. Unfortunately for Turing he got caught doing it while it was in activity, so they put him on hormones which caused him to develop breasts!

Why does it seem that so many of the greatest minds of history always have to meet a bitter end, only to be truly honored post-mortem?

Many of them have Asperger’s Syndrome, difficult people to deal with.

IMO, Alan Turing is not the father of modern computing science. That role goes to Alonzo Church -