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  • Writer's pictureRichard

Alan Turing's Many Gifts

Alan Turing was one of the most instrumental figures of the 21st century, beyond a shadow of a doubt. Through his work in cryptanalysis -- most especially in "cracking" the code of the German Enigma machine during World War II -- it could well be argued that he altered the course of the war and thereby of history. Truly the feat of hero. Yet, as a homosexual man at a time when this was completely unacceptable, not only did Turing not receive the accolades he deserved, he also likely died by his own hands before the world could truly realise his genius. For instance, 'the intelligence test' in connection to computational systems devised by Turing his still referenced today, 64 years later (Wolfram Alpha, 2018).

At the point of his untimely death (at age 41), he published one final piece of research: "Alan Turing used mathematics to explore how forms emerge, yielding insights that are now being applied to problems like desalination." (New York Times, 2018) Specifically, Chinese researchers are now finding more efficient ways to yield fresh, potable water from sea water made possible by Turing's work. The fact that his goal was ostensibly to defeat Argument from Design through mathematics makes his insights all the more remarkable, one that took us the best part of four decades to figure out (Ars Technica, 2018) and another two in order to start to implement.

Oh, the irony in that a man prevented by a society rife with prejudice from blooming may be instrumental in bringing deserts to bloom as the technology is further developed:

“We can use one membrane to finish the work of two or three,” said Zhe Tan, a graduate student at Zhejiang University in China and first author of the paper, which means less energy and lower cost if used for large-scale desalination operations in the future.

The fact that a man who saved countless lives through his work (and may yet do so in death) could be sentenced to chemical castration, ought to give us all collective pause in our righteous indignation of those who are different.



Ars Technica, 2018 (Timmer, J.). "Alan Turing’s chemistry hypothesis turned into a desalination filter" [online], last accessed: 6 July 2018.

The New York Times, 2018 (Klein, J.). "How the Father of Computer Science Decoded Nature’s Mysterious Patterns" [online], last accessed: 6 July 2018.

Wolfram Alpha, 2018. "Alan Mathison Turing" [online], last accessed: 6 July 2018.


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