Happy Birthday, Alan Turing!

Every time you use a phone or a computer, you use the ideas that Alan Turing invented. Alan discovered intelligence in computers, and today he surrounds us. A true hero of mankind.
— Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman, Google

We owe a lot to Alan Turing, who would have celebrated his 103rd birthday today. Hired by the U.K. government’s intelligence agency during WWII, the cryptanalyst pioneered computer programming and helped the Allies win the war by cracking the enigma code. He highly influenced the development of computer science by formalizing the concepts of algorithms and computation with the Turing machine — what would pave the way for modern personal computers.

In honor of his contributions, here are 5 ways you can celebrate the computer pioneer and code breaker’s birthday.

1. Learn cryptography from Khan Academy

The online learning platform now offers a ‘Journey into Cryptography’ lesson as part of its computer science curriculum. With a combination of videos and short challenges, the engaging lesson spans ancient to modern cryptography, randomized algorithms and codes vs. cyphers.

(Image source: Khan Academy)

2. Watch the Alan Turing biopic "The Imitation Game"

The 2014 film starring Benedict Cumberbatch helped to elevate Turing into the spotlight and gain the recognition he so long deserved. Leaders in the fields of technology, military, academia and LGBTQ groups worked to promote the film and Turing’s legacy. The list included Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and Google’s Eric Schmidt.

(Image source: Studiocanal)

3. Read Andrew Hodges’ biography of Alan Turing: The Enigma

Both the Imitation Game and the 1996 film Breaking the Code were adapted from the book, which explores his incredible achievements and the terrible injustice that was done to him. The bio centers on three periods in Turing’s life: his childhood friendship with Christopher Morcom, his work at Bletchley Park on cracking the Nazi Enigma code and his arrest and prosecution for homosexuality.

(Image source: Amazon.com)

4. Borrow from Turing's own reading list

Brain Pickings includes a few highlights from a recently uncovered list of books that Turing borrowed from his school library. Many are heavy on the sciences, including Sidelights on Relativity by Einstein and The Universe Around Us by astrophysicist Sir James Jeans. Others though, like Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, show a more whimsical side of the well-read genius.

(Image source: Amazon.com)


5. Go for a run

No, I’m serious. Turing was an active runner and enjoyed exercise. In fact, he made it a part of his daily routine to take his mind off complex tasks. “I asked him one day why he punished himself so much in training. He told me, ‘I have such a stressful job that the only way I can get it out of my mind is by running hard,’” commented J.F. Peter Harding, who recorded activities from the Walton Athletic Club where Turing trained.

Take a chance on a misunderstood kid.

Sometimes it is the people no one imagines anything of who do the things no one can imagine.
— Alan Turing (a Cumberbatch line in The Imitation Game)