Insight into code breaker Turing at Bletchley

Hand written note by Alan Turing
Hand written note by Alan Turing

A hand written notebook featuring Alan Turing’s thoughts on mathematical notation is now on display for the first time at Bletchley Park.

The manuscript, which was sold at auction in 2016, has been loaned to the museum for one year and is on display alongside other personal effects belonging to the Second World War codebreaker, writes Heather Jan Brunt.

Dermot Turing, Bletchley Park Trustee and nephew of Alan Turing, said: “When Alan was at Bletchley Park everyone knows he was breaking the Enigma code.

“But less well known is that he was also spending a lot of time working on problems in mathematics.

“He wrote this notebook probably quite early on in World War Two when he was thinking about the way in which we write mathematical formulae.

“It’s a commentary on what’s wrong with notation.”

The notebook is on display alongside 16 of Turing’s 18 published papers, which have been described as ‘an unparalleled collection of the writings of the founder of modern computing science’.

The collection, originally compiled by another Bletchley Park code breaking giant, Max Newman, contains several specimens of Turing’s signature.

Peronel Craddock, head of collections and exhibitions at Bletchley Park, said: “It is wonderful to have the opportunity to display this notebook for the first time and we are grateful to the lender.

“It really adds to our understanding of Turing, his personality comes through in his critique of others’ theories.”

Bletchley Park, which has become an internationally renowned site visited by people from around the world, is open daily. Tickets cost £16 when booked in advance online at www.bletchleypark.org.uk and give unlimited access for one year.