Codebreaker – Alan Turing’s Life and Legacy is a quiet special exhibition at the Science Museum offering an overall view of Alan Turing’s persona and work, especially during the development around the Enigma and Bombe machines. It is targeted to the general public while at the same time it provides interesting clues both for the IT geek and the inquisitive humanist.
You can really connect the dots if you want.
All the confirmed facts are mentioned, several early computers are displayed, carefully leaving out analysis. This way, those who don’t know about Turing can learn about a major scientist without having to face directly the disturbing path that lead to his death, while those who know him will shiver at seeing the very small bottle of stilboestrol complete with brief neutral caption about the apple. IT geeks in turn will have a cool Enigma machine to peruse.
Personally, I found the section about life at Bletchey Park particularly interesting. The staff was mainly female, maths related jobs being very popular as career choice for women at the time, when the government started to select elite scientists from Oxford and Cambridge for military projects, boarding-school boys who had never interacted with female colleagues. Photos and machines from that place and era are fascinating.
Celebrating Alan Turing is easy, but talking about his premature death, and how it deprived the world of the father of artificial intelligence, is still a controversial task. I wonder about the upcoming Hollywood movie, The Imitation Game.