Alan Turing’s centenary birth-year is celebrated across the globe in 2012, with Manchester Museum joining in the birthday celebrations.
Turning was of course a key code-cracker in the Enigma team who helped bring the Second World War to an end. However, the showcase ‘Alan Turing and Life’s Enigma’ shifts attention away from Turing’s cryptanalysis and innovative computer science (which encompasses the basis of his work), reminding us that Turing was also one of the first mathematical biologists.
“We aim to create more awareness of the least featured area of Alan Turing’s work,” says Tim Manley, the Museum’s Head of Marketing and Communications. “And it’s only appropriate to look at his post-war research he had undertaken whilst working at Manchester University.”
Turing’s paper The Chemical Basis of Morphogenesis proposed how organisms develop self-organised patterns (stripes, hexagons, etc.) when chemical substances integrate with each other in ‘diffusion-driven instability’.
From March 24 to November 18, ‘Life’s Enigma’ shall combine his notes with various 1950s-inspired objects, ranging from shelves to re-created computer models, to illustrate his ideas.
The event coincides with Manchester Withington’s MP John Leech submitting an Early Day Motion (EDM) calling for Turing’s posthumous pardoning.
Turing was convicted in 1952 of ‘gross indecency’ with another man, and accepted chemical castration over being sent to prison. His security clearance was then withdrawn, ceasing his ability to work for the GCHQ. He committed suicide in 1954 at the age of 41, just two years after The Chemical Basis of Morphogenesis was published.
The EDM was prompted by a www.direct.gov.uk ‘e-petition’ organised by constituent Will Jones. It has gained 21,000 signatures so far.