School of Information Science - Hall of Fame

Alan M. Turing
  • Alan M. Turing
  • Born: June 23, 1912
  • Died: June 7, 1954
  • Field: Computer science; mathematics and logic; cryptography; artificial intelligence
  • Focus: Envisioned first digital computer, the Turing Machine. Articulated the Turing Test for establishing machine intelligence. Instrumental cryptologist and code breaker in World War II.
  • Country: Great Britain
  • Era: 1900 to 1949

Often considered the founder of computer science, Alan Turing's work in mathematics led him to envision the first digital computer. The Turing Machine would read a series of ones and zeroes, interpreting them to perform an ordered and repeatable sequence of steps. His machine introduced the concept of the multi-purpose computer. His concepts introduced the algorithm as a means of solving any problem by way of a sequence of well-conceived steps.

Turing's interest in biological processes and his belief that a machine could be created to mimic the process of the human brain ushered in the era of artificial intelligence. He conceived of the Turing Test, a method of proving or disproving the presence of intelligence in a machine. If an objective observer, by way of questions posed from a keyboard, could not reliably identify a machine from a person, the machine would have passed the Turing Test. Successful achievement of the test remains a primary goal of today's artificial intelligence researchers.

During World War II, Turing was an instrumental member of the team from the Department of Communications in Great Britain that deciphered German codes generated by the Enigma machine.

In recognition of his monumental achievements in the advancement and realization of computers and computer science, significant contributors to the field are recognized by the A.M. Turing Award. Bestowed by the Association for Computing Machinery and sponsored by Intel, the award recognizes major contributions of lasting significance to the computer field. Its list of recipients constitutes a veritable Who's Who of computer science.

Turing was awarded an undergraduate degree in mathematics from King's College, Cambridge, in 1934. He received a Ph.D. from Princeton in logic, algebra, and number theory in 1938. He was a fellow of King's College and of the Royal Society, and a recipient of the Order of the British Empire (OBE).

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