From the Editors: Big Data is storage, for now

May 31, 2012 —  (Page 2 of 2)

In memory of Alan Turing
Alan Turing, the British mathematician and computer scientist, was born on June 23, 1912—one hundred years ago this month.

To computer scientists and historians, Alan Turing is most famous for his work at Bletchley Park, England, during World War II. His algorithms were critical to breaking German codes, and for his involvement in the construction of computers (called bombes) that helped automate the decryption process. His name is synonymous with the Enigma, the German navy’s fiendishly complicated code machine.

Turing is also known for his work on what we call the Turing Machine, a theoretical device that he envisioned could solve any computer algorithm that could be described on paper tape. Well, it could solve almost any algorithm. Sometimes the Turing Machine would halt and present a solution. Sometimes it would not halt and would keep running forever, meaning the problem could not be solved. Turing worked hard on the halting problem, which is fundamental to the study of modern computer science.

And of course, there is the Turing Test, his thought experiment that said that if a computer could trick a human into thinking that he or she was conversing with another human, then the computer could be said to be thinking. Through the Turing Test and other works, Alan Turing is one of the fathers of artificial intelligence.

Sadly, the homosexual Turing was a victim of that era’s intense prejudice. After being forced to endure chemical castration as the only alternative to imprisonment for violating Britain’s decency laws, the brilliant mathematician committed suicide at age of 41.

The Association for Computing Machinery created the A.M. Turing Award in 1966 to recognize lasting and major technical contributions to the field of computer science. In this issue, the award’s recipients (including this year’s winner Judea Pearl) talk about what Turing meant to their interest in computer science.

At the centenary of his birth, we dedicate the 10th anniversary of the SD Times 100 in memory of Alan Mathison Turing, OBE, FRS, for his extraordinary contributions to computer science, mathematics, cryptography, artificial intelligence and, posthumously, human rights.

Related Search Term(s): Big Data, Alan Turing

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