About this sample
About this sample
Words: 2839 |
15 min read
Published: May 7, 2019
Words: 2839|Pages: 6|15 min read
Alan Turing was socially awkward, but his intellectual prowess allowed him to change the world for the better, leaving behind the design for the modern day computer. He is proof that even though you are different, you can still make a huge difference in the world no matter what other people may say and do to you.
Alan Mathison Turing was born June 23, 1912. From the time he was a young boy, he was socially awkward and never really had any friends. Then he was accepted to Sherborne School. Sherborne was one of the first public schools in London. It was also an all-boys school. It was there Alan met Christopher Morcom. At first Turing just called him “Morcom” although later he began to call him Christopher. It was Christopher who deepened Alan’s love for mathematics. Christopher also introduced Alan to cryptology and astronomy. Both Alan and Christopher thought the math classes they took, and the students in them, were incredibly boring. They already knew everything that was being taught. They had learned it in their free time on their own. Because of this, Alan and Christopher spent most of their time together. Alan believed that Christopher was his first, last and, only friend. Alan began to fall in love with Christopher.
It was at this time in his life that Alan began to accept the fact that he was homosexual and that there was no way for him to change. He didn’t try to hide it from anyone anymore, but he didn’t go around telling people that he was homosexual. He did not want to be made fun of any more than he already was. He didn’t even tell Christopher for fear of scaring away his only friend and his protector. But Christopher was always so nice to him and he must have at least had his suspicions about Alan, so it was possible that he felt the same way Alan did. This might have been what Alan was thinking when he made up his mind to tell Christopher how he felt about him when he came back from summer break.
What Alan didn’t know was that Christopher wasn’t going to go back to Sherborne. When Christopher was younger, he had contracted Bovine Tuberculosis from drinking infected cow’s milk. He had been quite healthy for several years, but over the summer vacation Christopher fell ill again. He died that summer without being able saying goodbye to Alan. This devastated Alan who, was now, without any friends. Alan swore to do his best to honor Christopher. Along with Mrs. Morcom, Alan dedicated an award to Christopher called the Christopher Morcom Award. The Christopher Morcom award was given to those who had excelled at math and science that year. Alan won the award many times and was very proud of this fact thinking that even though Christopher wasn’t with him anymore it would somehow make Christopher like him even more. They also had a stained-glass window made in his honor at the church across the street from the school. The stained glass window was a beautiful picture of the night sky and all of the stars designed by Alan and Mrs. Morcom and it took three years to put in all of the little pieces.
That year Alan was promoted to the house prefect. Part of the prefects “job” was to punish the other boys. Alan usually passed this responsibility on to another prefect because he couldn’t stomach it. He had flashbacks of getting bullied by the other boys, some of whom he would have to punish. He thought that doing so would make them want to and feel the need to bully him even more. He also made “friends” with another boy who had once been beaten so harshly that it permanently disfigured his spine and required him to use a walking stick. We don’t know what his name was but we know that he learned a lot from Alan, and even won the Christopher Morcom Award once. We think that he thought of Alan as his Morcom.
Alan graduated and went to King’s College where he studied Mathematics. Later, he transferred to Cambridge. When he graduated, he was offered a mysterious job at Bletchley Park. He was told only that he would be working with some of the top mathematicians in the world. He thought that this would be the perfect opportunity to show off his skills and prove that he was better than them. He was going to make Christopher proud of him. He accepted the job. He was told that he would be one of the main cryptanalysts breaking Enigma. Enigma was a German creation, a way to create new codes every day without putting in hours of work that could be used instead to try and break the allies’ codes.
The way enigma worked was there were several dials. The dials would switch every day by turning a notch automatically. When this was done the letters would have switched and there would be a new code.
Alan had convinced himself that he was smarter than everyone else during his college. He thought that he alone would be solving and breaking Enigma. This proved to be a problem because he would be working on a team. The team was led by a man named Hugh Alexander. Alan did not agree with Alexander’s way of doing things, most likely because it meant that he couldn’t do everything he wanted to do anytime he wanted to do it. Alan decided he was going to do his own thing. He wanted to make a universal machine. A machine that could solve any problem in a matter of seconds. A machine that could think on its own. He had written his college thesis on it and had it published. He thought that if this machine could solve enigma then all of the other cryptanalysts would leave him alone to work in peace and quiet. He began to make a prototype and he named it Christopher because he applied a lot of what Christopher had taught him and how much he meant to him. His obsession with the machine made his team despise him. They needed his help to solve Enigma. By solving Enigma they will have won the war against Germany. But in order to do this they had to figure out what code the Germans were using, the problem was that the code changed every twelve hours. They did not have enough time to go through every letter substitution cipher known to man. It would have been done much faster if Alan stopped working on Christopher.
Eventually, Alan began to build his actual machine based off of the prototype. His co-workers were not behind him on this but he didn’t really care. He worked better alone anyway. But when he was in the middle of building Christopher his boss threatened to shut him down if he did not produce accurate results the next three months. All of his planning and time put into Christopher would have been wasted, and even worse he would have, in his mind, disappointed Christopher. It was at this point that Alan decided he needed help.
Alan loved crossword puzzles. They had been one of the things that Christophe had introduced him to and that they loved doing together. Christopher was amazing at crosswords and could solve most in less than ten minutes, but as time went on and the more puzzles they did the better Alan became at solving them, and pretty soon he was better at them than even Christopher. Over the years he became convinced that solving crossword puzzles was one of the best ways to keep your mind strong. He thought that the people who could solve a very difficult crossword puzzle in a short amount of time could help him greatly in building Christopher and, by connection solving Enigma and winning the war. He put a very difficult crossword puzzle in the newspaper and said, “If you can solve this in less than ten minutes, report to Bletchley Park for a top secret job offer.” Six men and one woman showed up for the interview. Miss Joan Clarke was the only woman present. They were given six minutes to solve a crossword puzzle that took Alan seven minutes to solve. Joan was the first one finished. It only took her four minutes. She and two other men were hired. We don’t really know much about the other men. We do know that Alan was quite fond of Joan. She had shown the most promise so far and had given Alan some very good ideas on how to improve Christopher. She not only gave Alan advice about Christopher, but also in his social life, well if you could call it that. Joan was Alan’s first real friend since Christopher and he knew that he could trust her. They began to have lunch together and Alan would go to the house she was staying in at night and the would solve problems together. Towards the end of the war Joan’s parents wanted her to quit her job and move back home. They did not think that it was proper for an unmarried woman to be living alone and working with only men. To prevent this Alan proposed to Joan himself. He had not had a true friend since Christopher. He didn’t want to lose Joan to. At this point Joan did not know that Alan was homosexual. After a few months later however, Alan told her about Christopher and that he could never be really happy if he married her. This made Joan very upset but she understood and never told anyone his secret because she knew what people did to homosexual people.
It was at this time that there was an investigation at Bletchley with Alan as the main suspect. There had been a spy for the Russians, leaking whatever information they found to them so that they could solve Enigma before the British. Alan had shown all of the signs of someone acting as a spy. He was a loner who had not made any friends, in fact he made more enemies. He worked on his own project but still felt entitled to knowing what was going on. His work space was searched and most of his papers taken or destroyed. Alan was devastated. He spent the time that he was not needed for the investigation on redesigning Christopher. This investigation would go on for the rest of the war until they discovered that it was actually John Cairncross an Irish man who had been hand-picked by Hugh Alexander. He had been caught by marking a verse in his bible that had been in a telegraph from the Russians. However they still had their suspicions about Alan.
Around this time the other cryptanalysts decided that maybe Christopher was worth it and that Alan had the right idea. They decided that they were going to help and support him from now on and offer him their advice. They began to actually talk to him and be social.
They continued to work on Christopher, but Alan had borrowed a large amount of money to build it and the donors wanted results, but there were no results to show for it. They were no closer to solving Enigma. This upset their superiors and they were told that they could not continue to work on Christopher. On top of that they decided that they were going to fire Alan. But, it was not to be. Alan’s co-workers decided that they should stand up for Alan’s machine. They believed that it would work. They all vowed to quit if Alan was fired. If they did that, Bletchley would not have a single cryptanalyst, much less some of the best in the world. Alan stayed and continued to work on Christopher. But the machine wasn’t working. They had everything right, but they were missing something. They still couldn’t figure out how the Germans were changing the code so fast and telling their operators. Bletchley was already receiving all of the telegrams.
One night Alan and his co-workers went out for a drink and to discuss some ideas to improve Christopher. Joan had invited a friend of hers to join them who worked in intercepting the German messages. The question on the table was “Is there a way for us to crack Enigma without knowing every letter” However Hugh Alexander had other things on his mind. He thought that Joan’s friend was incredibly attractive. He was talking to her when she said that she had developed a fascination with the German who’s messages she intercepted. When asked why that was she said that it was amazing how much you can learn about a person when you spend all day listening to them type messages. For example she knew that he was in a serious relationship. At the beginning of every message they were told to type five random letters. The five letters that her German chose were Cilly, like the name. She could always expect to see those letters during the day.
This sent everybody into a frenzy, what if instead of trying to program Christopher to decipher every letter at the same time they told him to start with a simple phrase and go from there. What was one phrase they could always count on in every message - Heil Hitler. They ran to Bletchley to try out this new theory. They plugged in the numbers and in fifteen minutes they had deciphered the most recent message. It warned them about a U-boat attack that would happen that would happen later that morning. From that moment on until the war ended they decided which attacks were stopped and which they just had to forget about. They decided who lived and who died. They had to calculate the least amount attacks stopped so that they could still win the war with the least amount of casualties all while not tipping off the Germans.
Because of this they were able to help the Allies win the war. However they were not given any of the credit. The government decided to burn any paper evidence of Enigma and only people with very high access could know about it. They thought that it would be better that way. There was one thing though that was not destroyed. It was Christopher and all of his blueprints, just in case he was needed again. Alan kept all of these things in his house because he didn’t trust anyone else with his work.
After winning the war Alan was arrested because he was a homosexual. He did not deny it, he just gave himself up, but he made sure people knew exactly who they were arresting. They gave Alan the option of spending the rest of his life in prison or receiving a series of treatments that would chemically castrate him. It is easy to see why Alan chose to do the treatments, but in the long run it is what killed him. The chemicals caused him to shake and he couldn’t think like he used to. He couldn’t even do crossword puzzles anymore. This drove him insane and caused him to spend the rest of his days at home, staring at his wall of blueprints that he had hung on his wall, his only reminder of Christopher Morcom. After Bletchley everyone was told that they could never see each other again. This meant that Alan could no longer be friends with Joan. After all he had gone through to keep her as a friend he lost her to. To our knowledge Alan never had another friend like Joan or Christopher.
Alan committed suicide at the age of forty two. He ate an apple that he had poisoned with cyanide. Some people say that this is why apple computers are called apple, because their first creator had killed himself with an apple. The chemical castration took away his freedom and his ability to think. Alan had lost everything that he had and he didn’t think that he could live like that anymore.
Alan didn’t care what other people said or thought about him. He believed that he should be able to do anything he wanted, no matter the cost. This is what killed him, but it is also what saved America from being ruled by Hitler. If Alan hadn’t done what he wanted, he would have never broken Enigma and we wouldn’t be able to do half of the things we do today.
I was at the very end of writing my research paper when I came across an article from the Smithsonian Magazine that said that, while Alan Turing was a great mathematician, he was not the one who came up with the design for the machine that broke Enigma, the Polish did. Alan came up with the plans for a machine that could tell the accuracy of what it was told. This was added, by Alan, to the Polish machine which made it process codes faster and solve Enigma much faster.
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