Alan Turing was the inspirational mathematician at the heart of Bletchley Park’s codebreaking successes during World War Two. Before he died in January 2006, the late Mr Sidney E Frank, an American billionaire, commissioned the internationally renowned sculptor Mr Stephen Kettle (pictured below with the statue) to create a statue in memory of Alan Turing. Kettle’s pioneering work led to the world’s first stacked slate statue, which is permanently housed in the Science Museum in London. The one and a half ton, life-size statue of Alan Turing is made from approximately half a million individual pieces of five hundred million year old Welsh slate and bears a faultless resemblance to the great man.
Philanthropist, Mr Frank, was probably best known in the UK for his campaign to raise awareness of RJ Mitchell, the legendary chief designer at Supermarine whose greatest legacy was the Spitfire single-seat fighter aircraft. Like Alan Turing, Mitchell did not receive the public acclamation that historians and experts believe he deserved. In October 2005, Sidney Frank decided to champion Alan Turing’s memory and achievements, through a project initiated by the Bletchley Park Trust.
Alan Turing arrived at Bletchley Park on September 1939 and soon was pursuing his idea of building a machine that would break the Enigma key. He became head of the small Naval Enigma team in Hut 8 and contributed greatly to the breaking, by December 1939, of German Naval Enigma. By August 1940, Turing, together with his friend and colleague, Gordon Welchman, had brought the idea of an Enigma codebreaking machine to fruition with the construction of the Turing-Welchman Bombe which speeded up the process of breaking into the daily Enigma keys.
Historians agree that the work of the codebreakers at Bletchley Park effectively helped to shorten the war by two years, saving countless lives. Although, Alan Turing received the OBE for his wartime achievements, he died tragically in 1954 at the age of only 41, having received no public recognition of the colossal contribution he made to the outcome of the war and the computer age that was to follow.
Alan Turing was an accomplished runner who achieved world-class Marathon standards. His best time of 2 hours, 46 minutes, 3 seconds, was only 11 minutes slower than the winner in the 1948 Olympic Games. In a 1948 cross-country race he finished ahead of Tom Richards who was to go on to win the silver medal in the Olympics the same year.
In 1952 at a time when homosexuality was illegal in the UK, Turing was convicted of having a sexual relationship with another man, to which he made no defence other than to say he saw nothing wrong in his actions. Turing was sentenced to a treatment that amounted to chemical castration. The conviction robbed him of his security clearance for GCHQ, for which he still worked, and made him the target for surveillance at the start of the cold war. He died after eating an apple laced with cyanide.
Mr Simon Greenish, Director of Bletchley Park Trust, heralded the statue as a fitting and timely tribute to Turing. He continued, “Alan Turing is universally recognised as the founding father of the modern computer and one of the pre-eminent unsung intellectual warriors of the twentieth century. With the help of the Sidney E Frank Foundation and the brilliance of sculptor, Stephen Kettle, Bletchley Park is now home to an exquisite and magnificent memorial to the genius of Turing.”
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