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Alan Turing is sometimes called the father of modern computer science. With the Turing Test, Turing made a significant and characteristically provocative contribution to the debate regarding artificial intelligence: whether it will ever be possible to say that a machine is conscious and can think. He provided an influential formalisation of the concept of algorithm and computation with the Turing Machine, formulating the now widely accepted "Turing" version of the Church–Turing thesis, namely that any practical computing model has either the equivalent or a subset of the capabilities of a Turing machine.

Early computers and the Turing Test[]

From 1945 to 1947 he was at the National Physical Laboratory, where he worked on the design of ACE (Automatic Computing Engine). He presented a paper on February 19, 1946, which was the first complete design of a stored-program computer in Britain. Although he succeeded in designing the ACE, there were delays in starting the project and he became disillusioned. In late 1947 he returned to Cambridge for a 'sabbatical' year. While he was at Cambridge, ACE was completed in his absence and executed its first program on May 10, 1950. In 1949 he became deputy director of the computing laboratory at the University of Manchester, and worked on software for one of the earliest true computers; the Manchester Mark I. During this time he continued to do more abstract work, and in Computing machinery and intelligence (Mind, October 1950), Turing addressed the problem of artificial intelligence, and proposed an experiment now known as the Turing Test, an attempt to define a standard for a machine to be called "sentient".

Turing biographies[]

  • Turing's mother, Sara Turing, who survived him by many years, wrote a biography of her son.
  • Andrew Hodges wrote a definitive biography Alan Turing: The Enigma in 1983 (see references below).
  • The play Breaking the Code by Hugh Whitemore is about the life and death of Turing.

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