Alan Turing was one of the most important and influential thinkers of the 20th century. This volume makes his key writings available to a non-specialist readership for the first time. They make fascinating reading both in their own right and for their historic significance: contemporary
computational theory, cognitive science, and artificial intelligence life all spring from this ground-breaking work.
Educated at Sherborne School in Dorset, Turing went up to King’s College, Cambridge, in October 1931 to read Mathematics. He graduated in 1934, and in March 1935 was elected a Fellow of King’s, at the age of only 22. In 1936 he published his most important theoretical work, ‘On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem [Decision Problem]’ (Chapter 1, with corrections in Chapter 2). This article described the abstract digital computing machine—now referred to simply as the universal Turing machine—on which the modern computer is based. Turing’s fundamental idea of a universal stored-programme computing machine was promoted in the United States by John von Neumann and in England by Max Newman. By the end of 1945 several groups, including Turing’s own in London, were devising plans for an electronic stored-programme universal digital computer—a Turing machine in hardware.
About the Author
B. J. Copeland is Reader in Philosophy at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand.