Rare Alan Turing manuscript goes on show in Hong Kong


A rare manuscript belonging to British mathematician and code breaker Alan Turing went on show in Hong Kong Thursday ahead of an auction in New York where it is expected to fetch at least $1 million.

The sale of the recently discovered notebook comes at a time of enormous interest in Turing’s life and work generated by Hollywood film “The Imitation Game”, which won an Oscar in February.

The extraordinary handwritten notebook from the early 1940s gives an intimate insight into the “father of the modern computer”, Bonhams auction house said.

It features 56 pages of Turing’s notes on the foundations of mathematical notations and computer science.

“One would be hard-pressed to think of another scientist who has had a more direct impact on people’s everyday lives,” Cassandra Hatton, director of Bonhams’ History of Science and Technology department, told AFP.

“Our iPhones, our computers, the way aeroplanes are moved around — everything is done on computing and that’s all because of him,” she said.

Turing was a computer scientist, philosopher and cryptologist ahead of his time and played an important role in breaking the German Enigma Code in the Second World War, when he worked from Britain’s code breaking centre at Bletchley Park.

He wrote the notes during his leisure time there, said Hatton.

“He is known as the father of computing, he is known as a hero in World War II, he broke this unbreakable code and shortened the war by two years,” Hatton said.

The notebook shows that Turing was examining the works of German philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, and French mathematician Rene Descartes, among others.

“This is the first time we could see what his process was and how he tackled problems,” Hatton added.

“He is analysing the notations that they use and pointing out the problems and trying to come up with solutions.”

Turing was prosecuted for homosexuality in 1952 when it was a crime in Britain, despite the fact that he had played a crucial role in deciphering the German codes, which experts say accelerated the fall of Adolf Hitler.

Forced to undergo chemical castration, Turing killed himself at the age of 41.

He was officially pardoned by Queen Elizabeth II only in 2013, six decades after his death.

The manuscript will be auctioned on April 13 in New York with Bonhams predicting that it will fetch a “seven-figure sum”.

It will be on show to the public in Hong Kong until Sunday.