Turing, Alan Mathison

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Turing, Alan Mathison,

1912–54, British mathematician and computer theorist. While studying at Cambridge he began work in predicate logic that led to a proof (1937) that some mathematical problems are not susceptible to solution by automated computation; in arriving at this, he postulated a universal machine, now called a Turing machineTuring machine,
a mathematical model of a device that computes via a series of discrete steps and is not limited in use by a fixed maximum amount of data storage. Introduced by the British mathematician Alan Turing in 1936, a Turing machine is a particularly simple computer, one
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, that was the theoretical prototype of the electronic digital computer. After completing a Ph.D. at Princeton (1938), he returned home to England, where, during World War II, he was instrumental in deciphering German messages encrypted by the Enigma cipher machine. After the war, he helped design computers, first for the British government (1945–48) and then for the Univ. of Manchester (1948–54). During this period, he produced a body of work that helped form the basis of the newly emerging field of artificial intelligenceartificial intelligence
(AI), the use of computers to model the behavioral aspects of human reasoning and learning. Research in AI is concentrated in some half-dozen areas.
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; among his contributions was the Turing testTuring test,
a procedure to test whether a computer is capable of humanlike thought. As proposed (1950) by the British mathematician Alan Turing, a person (the interrogator) sits with a teletype machine isolated from two correspondents—one is another person, one is a
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, a procedure to test whether a computer is capable of humanlike thought. Two years after being arrested for a homosexual offense (and then undergoing chemical castration as a "treatment"), he died of cyanide poisoning. His death was ruled a suicide at the time, but the exact circumstances of his death are unclear, and it has been argued that it could have been accidental. In 2013 Turing was posthumously pardoned for his 1952 conviction for homosexuality.


See biographies by S. Turing (his mother, 1959, rev. ed. 2012) and A. Hodges (1983, repr. 2012)); G. Dyson, Turing's Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe (2012).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Turing, Alan Mathison


Born June 23, 1912, in London; died June 7,1954, in Wilmslow, near Manchester. British mathematician. Fellow of the Royal Society (1951).

Turing graduated from Cambridge University in 1935. He received his Ph.D. from Princeton University, which he attended from 1936 to 1938. Turing worked in the British Foreign Office from 1939 to 1945. From 1945 to 1948 he was on the staff of the National Physical Laboratory, and from 1948 to 1954 he was affiliated with the University of Manchester. Turing’s principal works are on mathematical logic and computer mathematics. In 1936 and 1937 he introduced a mathematical concept that amounted to an abstraction of the notion of an algorithm and made possible a more precise definition of a computable function. This concept later became known as the Turing machine. During the last years of his life he worked on mathematical problems of biology.


Kleene, S. C. Vvedenie v metamatematiku. Moscow, 1957. (Translated from English.)
Mashiny Tiuringa i rekursivnye funktsii. Moscow, 1972. (Translated from German.)
Trakhtenbrot, B. A. Algoritmy i vychislitel’nye avtomaty. Moscow, 1974.
Apokin, I. A., and L. E. Maistrov. Razvitie vychislitel’nykh mashin. Moscow, 1974.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.