ThE 2012 aLan Turing Year celebrating the life and work of the man many call the founding father of com- puter science was atriumph.
Around the world, it brought together
academics developing Turing’s uncompleted work, inspired school students with early visions of computing,
and reached out to the wider public
with a vast array of events that brought
the character and achievements of the
quiet genius to life.
The year highlighted not only Turing’s practical success, particularly his
part in cracking German Enigma codes
at Bletchley Park during the Second
World War, but also brought into focus some of the concepts he conceived
across disciplines, including mathematics, computing, computer science, informatics, morphogenesis, and philosophy.
Barry Cooper, a professor in the
School of Mathematics at the University of Leeds and chair of the Turing Centenary Advisory Committee, started to
encourage colleagues to contribute to
the Turing Year five years before it began on January 1, 2012. He went on to
coordinate the year’s activities.
One of these was the Turing Cente-
nary Conference held at Cambridge Uni-
versity in June 2012 and entitled “Com-
putability in Europe (CiE) 2012 — How
the World Computes.” Cooper explains,
“The mission of this event was to ad-
dress concerns about how science was
fragmenting. We wanted to return to
more joined-up thinking about comput-
ability and how it affects everyone’s life.
“More generally, too, the Turing
Recap | DOI: 10.1145/2507771.2507785 Sarah Underwood
Year was important in highlighting
the need for fundamental thinking.
Looking back, the year was amazing.
It included more events than we had
expected, it brought forward consid-
eration of extended forms of compu-
tation, and it opened a window on
things that many people find difficult
Leslie Valiant, professor of Computer
Science and Applied Mathematics at
Harvard University, and the 2010 ACM
A.M. Turing Award recipient, spoke at
several Turing Year events. He suggests
the centenary events were a culmina-
tion of a growing realization among
scientists of the importance of Turing’s
work, rather than a rediscovery of his
brilliance. He explains, “Turing may be
a newly recognized celebrity, but this is
not necessarily the result of the cente-
nary celebrations, as his influence on
the world has become self-evident over
the past decade in a way that it was not
evident 20 to 30 years earlier. The Turing
Year may have enhanced recognition of
Turing’s work by bringing together many
scientists who did not know individually
just how many others also traced their
work to Turing’s ideas. It also helped
many realize just how sweeping Turing’s
influence has become.”
The breadth of Turing’s thinking
and the observations he did not go on
to develop, but which now have great
meaning in the world, are part of what
made Turing a unique and remark-
able man. At the same time, however,
the complexity of his thinking and
the difficulty in explaining to the lay-
man the concepts he proposed, have
the Alan turing Year
Leaves a Rich Legacy
A year-long celebration of the life and work of a man
whom many call the founding father of computer science.
“the turing Year
was important in
highlighting the need
the cover of the recently released book,
Alan Turing: His Work and Impact.
An enigma cake at the turing Centenary
Dorkboat cruise. Photo: normal Flora.
A plaque at manchester university, where
turing worked. Photo: Peter hughes.