Turing was instrumental in Allied efforts to crack the Enigma code, used by the armed forces of Nazi Germany and her allies during World War II. His team at Bletchley Park included some of the finest mathematicians and cryptanalysts the British and the Allies had to offer. The first steps toward cracking the Enigma were made by Polish scientists, who managed to create an enigma clone in 1939.
When Poland was overrun by the Nazis, their pioneering work became even more important. The decrypted ‘Ultra’ messages proved invaluable during the Battle of the Atlantic and subsequent military campaigns in the European Theatre of war. They helped save lives and eventually turn the tide of war.
However, Turing’s role in the biggest intelligence coup of all time was not enough to save him from ignorance and persecution. Turing was gay and in 1952 he reported a simple burglary to local police. In the process he admitted that he was in a gay relationship.
He was put on trial, convicted for homosexual activity, forced to undergo chemical castration and stripped of his security clearance. He took his own life two years later.
Turing was a computing visionary and he is often credited with being the first scientist to address the issue of artificial intelligence.
“A computer would deserve to be called intelligent if it could deceive a human into believing that it was human,” he famously said.