Pages Menu
Categories Menu

Posted by on Jun 22, 2012 in Science |

Alan Turing: The Legacy

Alan Turing: The Legacy

Legacy (Latin Legatum): That which is left to the successors or transmitted, whether material or immaterial thing.

A few months ago I deign to see the entire documentary “Everything is a Remix” posits something like the phrase “everything is invented” but plan to demonstrate from actual cases, the ability to “discover” or ” create “is not that it comes from a process of acquiring knowledge and skills to improve what already exists or convert it into new achievements.

But not everyone has the ability to become one of those cooks who mix science ingredients in your head and advances for all mankind. Fortunately, was one of them.

His legacy is so complex and overwhelming that it is almost impossible to believe that in just over 30 years, speculating that some infants were 11 years sitting at his desk working on computer concepts, achieve this level of precision in their work and in their theories concerning the future of computer science. Nor is it difficult to imagine knowing that he learned to read for themselves in just three weeks, and his fanaticism for numbers and puzzles.

But just as Turing left a great legacy and many disciples, he also had a mentor, less known to the general public but which contributed largely to its formation: Alonzo Church , an American mathematician who is credited with creating the theoretical basis of computing through the development of lambda calculus , equivalent of the “Turing Machine” which earned them be the fathers of the Church-Turing thesis . Let’s review some of their important contributions to world science and technology:

The Turing Machine

S not a machine itself, as we know other machines, but the concept on which to support today’s computer developments. This theory determined what the limits of what is computable by a computer, using concepts such as algorithms and calculability. What is the importance of demonstrating a calculable limit or impossible to be calculated? In science, especially in mathematics, demonstrate the impossibility is of vital importance to design or know the limits of the known possibilities today, or ever said the mathematician Gregory Chaitin, “lets us know when we should not try it impossible. “


Turing died without receiving any recognition for his contribution cryptographic avoided prolonging World War II, according to some theorists, between one and two years, and even give a significant victory to Nazi Germany, to let him negotiate a cease- fire and consolidate their conquests. This was because until the mid-’70s his work was not known to break Nazi codes of communication, based on Enigma machines and FISH.

During the war, the development of the pump, an electromechanical machine that had the function of removing thousands of potential candidate keys to narrow the result of each character used in the coded messages. For each possible combination was implemented electrically a chain of logical deductions. The pump could detect a contradiction occurred when disposing of the combination. This allowed anticipate all orders generated by the Nazi high command for the Atlantic fleet in a few months and thus neutralize their attack submarines and ships.


  • From 1945 to 1948 worked at the National Physical Laboratory in the design of the ACE (Automatic Computer Engine).
  • In 1949 he was appointed deputy director of the computer lab at the University of Manchester and worked in the software of one of the first real computer, the Manchester Mark I.
  • In 1952 Turing wrote a chess program. Lacking a computer powerful enough to run, he simulated the operation of the computer, taking over an hour and a half to make a move.
  • In those years he also worked on the development of cybernetics, laying the foundations of existing industrial systems of communication between man and machine as a fundamental premise to manage the control systems. These studies in depth later, led to the current concept of interface.

Artificial Intelligence

  • In an article published in the journal Mind in 1950, entitled “Computing Machinery and Intelligence”, Turing detailed arguments within a period of 50 years would have intelligent computers able to make logical deductions, to learn new knowledge gained from experience as both inductively and communicate with humanized interfaces. For the time was a radical concept that generated panic, even today there is still a debate, more moral than technological, around the artificial intelgiencia. To argue his theory of the concept design “Universal Machine” .
  • At a conference in London Mathematical Society in 1947, spoke about the possibility of constructing connectionist machines, based on artificial neural networks with learning ability. Concept surprisingly effective in current connectionist AI systems.


One of the latest news about his legacy became known a few months ago when a group of researchers from King’s College London confirmed experimentally a theory formulated by Turing 60 years ago, in which he explained the process of generation of biological patterns that cause stripes on the tiger, the spots on leopards or symmetrical patterns on the wings of butterflies. This interest stemmed stocks seeking to understand the Fibonacci numbers in plant structures.

This study was published in the journal Nature Genetics and demonstrates that, as Turing theorized, these patterns result from the interaction of a pair of morphogens (substances that control the position of various specialized cells within a tissue), an inhibitor and other activator. This research showing Turing could have important applications in regenerative medicine of the future.

Alan Mathison Turing is the most important twentieth century to the technological world? I dare say that if, and open the debate, trying to strip him of prejudice against him and figures related ratings peaked for the consumer market for their views on the importance of their contributions and importance of these as building blocks for the pioneers who followed him in computer science.

Tags: , , , ,