A hand-written notebook belonging to World War II code-breaking hero Alan Turing went up for auction recently and fetched a whopping US$1,025,000. Bonham’s auction house in New York sold the book.
Turing left the notebook and other papers to close friend and mathematician Robin Gandy in his will. The scientist originally purchased the relatively modest 58-page notebook from a stationer in Cambridge.
One entry in the book reads, “The Leibniz notation I find extremely difficult to understand in spite of it having been the one I understood the best once! It certainly implies that some relation between x and y has been laid down eg, y=x2+3x…”
The 56-page notebook dates from 1942-44 when Turing worked at the government code and cypher institute at Bletchley Park in the UK. He was instrumental in breaking Nazi Germany’s enigma code. Breaking that code helped end World War II. The film The Imitation Game recently told the story of that endeavour.
Alan Turing: the father of modern computing
Turing is often cited as the father the modern computing and artificial intelligence. The manuscript includes his notes on the foundations of mathematical notations and computer science.
In addition to the notebook, the auction house also offered for sale a working German Enigma enciphering machine. Manufactured for the German military in July 1944, the three-rotor device sold for $240,000.
Historians credit Turing’s efforts with saving countless lives and helping the Allies win the war. Despite that, authorities prosecuted the scientist for homosexuality in 1952. Later, he underwent chemical castration before finally committing suicide. The British Government offered Turing a public apology in 2009, while Queen Elizabeth II granted him a posthumous pardon in 2013.
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