Turing centenary

The Alan Turing Year was celebrated worldwide in 2012. Multiple Turing events were held in several cities. I attended quite a few of those events myself and audio recorded the speeches. My objective here is to compare and contrast claims that computer professionals, historians, and others have made about Turing and our field.

Towards The Origins of Computational Complexity

One of my students at Utrecht University reflected during the spring of 2014 on the origins of computational complexity. She has given me permission to publish her beautiful essay here (anonymously).

Her chosen research topic is a difficult one to address. But, by presenting a pluralistic account in which she lets her historical actors tell the story (Cobham, Hartmanis, Rabin, Blum), she has succeeded in conveying technical information to an audience that need not be versed in complexity theory per se.

Prime Numbers and Turing


October 2012

In his beautifully written book The Music of the Primes [1], Marcus du Sautoy presented a history of mathematical investigations into the behavior of the prime numbers. Can one predict when the next prime number will occur? Is there a formula that could generate prime numbers? Du Sautoy entertained such questions by discussing the work of several great mathematicians of the past, including Gauss, Riemann, and Turing.


Difficulties of Writing About Turing's Legacy


3 September 2013

My mentor, the historian Gerard Alberts, has advised me repeatedly during the past four years not to use technological concepts, like `program', `compiler', and `universal Turing machine', as subjects of my sentences. Instead, I should use historical actors. For example, I should not write

During the 1950s, a universal Turing machine became widely accepted as a conceptual abstraction of a computer.

Instead, I should write

By 1955, Saul Gorn viewed a universal Turing machine as a conceptual abstraction of his computer.



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