Alternative History

Alan Turing

Alan Turing was born in 1912 and showed an early interest in the natural world. He studied mathematics at Cambridge University and established himself as a mathematician with a unique perspective and original approach to certain fundamental issues in mathematics.

By the age of 24, Turing had devised the idea of a "Turing Machine", a simple logical device capable of computing all mathematical formulae and numbers that can be computed by a finite algorithm. Turing had also contributed to the solution of the famous Entscheidungsproblem (decision problem), showing that no computational system (such as a Turing Machine) can decide as being either true or false every possible theorem of arithmetic.

Soon after recognizing the computational power of a Turing Machine, Turing became interested in the pragmatic task of learning how to use electronic circuits to build computing devices. As an inititial example and test case for mechanical computation, Turing selected one of the most famous computational problems of mathematics, the approximation of the values of the zeros of the Reimann zeta function.

During World War II, Turing applied his knowledge of mathematics and computing devices to British efforts in military code breaking. In 1946, Turing returned to Cambridge and joined an interdisciplinary program to explore the mechanization of mathematical computations, theorem discovery and proof, and the relationship between formal systems and human thought processes. This program became the influential School of Cambridge Computing.