Alan Turing in America – Introduction

David E. Zitarelli (Temple University)

Figure 1.  Alan Turing (1912-1954)  (Source: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive)

The British mathematician Alan Turing has perhaps achieved greater fame today than during his lifetime.  Thirty-two years after his death in 1954 a play based on part of his work, Breaking the Code, opened in London’s West End theater district; it played in New York the next year.  The Broadway production was nominated for three Tony Awards, a rare accomplishment for a theatrical piece about a mathematician.  But Turing was no ordinary mathematician.  The play deplored his sad demise apparently caused by his homosexuality.  More recently, the movie The Imitation Game depicted Turing’s early education, role in deciphering Enigma in World War II, and the tragedy of his death at age 41.  Here I describe how two of his greatest accomplishments were influenced by one of his two visits to the U.S.

The authoritative account of the life and career of Alan Turing is a book by Andrew Hodges [10].  Two more recent works from different viewpoints are [3] and [11].  In addition, online files from a Princeton conference held to commemorate Turing’s 100th birthday can be accessed at: