Ever since I learned about Alan Turing in my introductory cog sci class, I knew he was someone pretty important in the field. Come to find out, he’s important in a lot of fields. He’s considered the father of AI and computer science thanks to his formalization of the concepts of algorithms and computation with the Turing machine, and is known for his belief that computers could be programed to “think.”
He was also very helpful to Britain during WWII by helping crack codes and German ciphers, but he was prosecuted in 1952 for homosexual acts, which were illegal at the time. He ended up committing suicide (most likely because of these accusations) by ingesting cyanide. Just this week, he was formally pardoned by the British government.
In reference to his fear that because of his homosexuality, his beliefs would not be taken seriously, Turing wrote to a friend:
Turing believes machines think
Turing lies with men
Therefore machines cannot think.
Turing has had a pretty huge impact on the world- for example, the computer as we know it would not exist without him. Although his life ended tragically and prematurely, it’s exciting to see that an effort is being made today, over 50 years after he died, to bring about a little bit of the justice he deserves.