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GCHQ director delivers a glowing tribute to Alan Turing

A legacy to be treasured
Thu Oct 04 2012, 19:00
Alan Turing was born in 1912 and is heralded as the father of modern computing

THE DIRECTOR of the UK spy agency GCHQ, Iain Lobban has delivered an impassioned speech in tribute to the cryptography and computing genius Alan Turing.

The speech was entitled "GCHQ and Turing's Legacy" and was delivered at the University of Leeds. In it Lobban celebrated the work of Turing and the legacy he left behind. His work is something we can all learn from, he said, and something that continues to inspire the agency.

This year is the centenary of Turing's birth and just one part of the celebrations that we are likely to see and hear. Another, and a very nice one, is the special Alan Turing edition of Monopoly that the internet services company Google is sponsoring.

Lobban said that Turing's legacy lives on in the world, in literature, in the media and in the work that GCHQ does.

"I will talk a lot about what Alan Turing means to GCHQ, about his legacy to us in the way we work, and the way we think about our work today, but I want to stress that crucial as his work in intelligence was, it was only one aspect of the life of one of the great minds of the twentieth century," he said.

"But if I had to single out one piece of Turing's legacy to GCHQ today, it would be the way that his contribution was part of the irrevocable change that turned the Code and Cypher School from being the mainly cryptanalytic bureau it was between the wars to becoming the highly technological intelligence organisation that GCHQ is today."

While Turing was working at Bletchley Park during World War II he changed the way that people looked at solving puzzles, and himself, added Lobban.

"Turing himself had changed, had transformed. The man originally approached in 1938 was a theoretician, somebody who worried about computability and the nature of numbers. But he had now become a doer," he said.

"Through our eyes, Turing was a founder of the Information Age: one of the people whose concepts are at the heart of a technological revolution which is as far reaching as the Industrial Revolution. Turing was part of a revolution which has led to a transformation of every aspect of our lives." µ


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