Celebrating a computer genius – Alan Turing at the Science Museum in London

The Science Museum in London is planning a year-long exhibition to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of a pioneering computer scientist.

Codebreaker – Alan Turing’s Life and Legacy will look at the achievements of the man whose influence is still felt today and whose wartime code-breaking helped to shorten World War Two.

It will be the most extensive collection of Turing artefacts ever assembled under one roof. Visitors will be able to see the Pilot ACE computer he developed in the early 1950s, which was the fastest computer in the world at the time and a forerunner of today’s machines.

Other key exhibits include a piece of Comet jet fuselage wreckage analysed with the aid of Pilot ACE in 1954 following a series of crashes. The computer’s work eventually helped to reveal the source of the problem, leading to changes in aeroplane design.

Pilot ACE was also used by Nobel Prize-winning chemist Dorothy Hodgkin in her examination of the structure of vitamin B12 and insulin molecules, and it was also put into use as one of the earliest computer traffic simulators.

Other highlights of the exhibition include German military Enigma machines and the few remaining parts of the revolutionary electromechanical ‘bombe’ machines that Turing devised during World War Two to crack codes. More than 200 were built, each weighing a ton and operating constantly at Bletchley Park and other secret sites in the UK. During the War Turing was known at the secret government intelligence site Bletchley Park as ‘the Prof’.

The Science Museum is open daily 10am–6pm, admission free. There is no charge for Codebreaker – Alan Turing’s Life and Legacy, which runs from 21 June to June 2013.

Science Museum, Exhibition Road, London SW7 2DD
Tel: +44 20 7942 4000
Website: www.sciencemuseum.org.uk
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Flickr: Science Museum London’s photostream

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