Nazi code breaker Alan Turing has been credited with helping the Allies to victory many times over during World War II. Now, the only known notebook containing his mathematical calculations and personal thoughts has been purchased by an unknown buyer for $1 million.
For those unfamiliar with Turing and his work, look no further than TheImitation Game, an Oscar-winning film about the mathematician starring Benedict Cumberbatch. The auction house responsible for its sale said the film likely did not increase its value, The Independent reported.
The notebook dates to 1942 to 1944. Turing kept notes in the 56-page journal – purchased from a stationary store in Cambridge – while he worked at Bletchley Park’s code and cypher school, NBC News added. During that time, he and fellow cryptanalysts attempted to crack the Germans’ Enigma codes; the notebook reveals his thought process and notations during this process.
Turing notebook is one of only a rare few from this team; scholar Andrew Hodges stressed its importance in understanding his intellect and character to the BBC.
“Alan Turing was parsimonious with his words and everything from his pen has special value. This notebook shines extra light on how, even when he was enmeshed in great world events, he remained committed to free-thinking work in pure mathematics.”
Among mathematician and computer science pioneer’s other incredible accomplishments: He created a machine in 1939 that could break those elusive Enigma messages on a grand scale; and in 1946, designed what was essentially the first digital computer.
The story of how Turing’s notebook ended up on the auction block is a unique one. A bunch of his papers were entrusted to one of his close friends and colleagues, Robin Gandy, after Alan died in 1954. In 1977, Gandy gave them to the King’s College Archive Center, but kept the notebook until his death in 1995.
That’s because he used Turing’s notebook for an unusual purpose – he jotted down his dreams in its blank pages, and evidently his notes were quite intimate, added The Independent.
“It seems a suitable disguise to write in between these notes of Alan’s on notation,” Gandy wrote in the notebook.
Though Turing’s code breaking efforts are credited with saving many lives, he was prosecuted by his government because of his homosexuality – a crime in Britain at the time. A conviction in 1952 stripped Turing of his role as a cryptanalyst for the government and he was subjected to hormone treatments meant to “cure” his homosexuality as an alternative to prison; these treatments made him impotent.
Alan Turing’s death in 1954 has been attributed to cyanide poisoning and some believe it was suicide. His family disputes this, calling his death an accident.
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