‘Codebreaker – Alan Turing’s Life And Legacy’ At London’s Science Museum

Running until the end of July, the Science Museum’s new exhibition, ‘Codebreaker – Alan Turing’s Life and Legacy‘ looks at this enigmatic man, his life and his achievements.

The exhibition uses a rather eclectic mix of materials to tell Turing’s story – in terms of technology, visitors will be able to see ‘ACE’, the Automatic Computing Engine, which Turing designed (while it wasn’t used during the war effort it was put to work in the 1950s to prove early scientific theories around biology and aeronautics) and a bank of ‘Enigma’ coding machines. There are also the rather more poignant artifacts to contend with, including some of Turing’s correspondence from his latter years, the autopsy report on his suicide and the bottle of eostrogen pills that led him inexorably down that path. I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t more material setting out the context of his death – the British State forced terrible decisions on gay men before the Sexual Offences Act came into force in 1967 and I would have liked to see more dedicated to that aspect of his life.

‘Codebreaker – Alan Turing’s Life and Legacy’ is quite a small exhibition and won’t take you long to get around. For those who are interested in the harder, technical side of Turing’s achievements a visit to Bletchley Park would also be rewarding. There’s more of a focus there on World War II, and Turing’s involvement in the decoding of Nazi communications. I can highly recommend a visit to both the Science Museum and to Bletchley Park if you want to build up a comprehensive picture of Turing’s contribution to computing.