No one expected much of the shy and quiet boy from London. Sent off to boarding school, Alan’s best friends were maths, science and a boy called Christopher who shared the same interests. When his best friend died, Alan found comfort in the world of numbers and codes and busied himself with creating fantastical machines. One of which would save many lives and help win a war…
Before Steve Jobs and Apple, the name and brand that many children will associate with computers, technology and AI, there was a little-known boy from London called Alan Turing. This sad yet empowering abbreviated biography really hits on an emotional level and makes for an extremely interesting and, at times, heart-breaking read.
Turing was the very quiet and unassuming boy with an incredible mathematical mind who was the British government’s secret weapon and who became one of the most important figures during the Second World War. The invention of his famous Enigma code-breaking machine was hardly believable and helped defeat the Germans in World War Two saving countless lives. Turing accomplished the impossible even when others doubted his work. So much so that he wrote to the prime minister to get backing for his Enigma project and thankfully he was giving the backing he so desperately needed. To say he proved his doubters wrong is something of an understatement.
Despite his outstanding work and being the godfather of theoretical computer science and artificial intelligence, Turing was heavily ostracised and faced terrible prejudices. Being gay was seen as wrong when Alan was alive and when the government found out that he loved men rather than women they treated him very poorly; he lost his job and was forced to undergo treatment to cure his ‘gayness’. All of this for the man who helped win the war. Sadly, Turing died much too young and even more tragic is that his name was kept a secret for many years and he never received the recognition for his incredible work until long after his death.
Turing’s life was far from happy, in fact, much of it comes across as incredibly sad. He was a lonely child who grew up away from home, he lost his best friend during his teenage years, his life was altered by war, he was the genius who helped bring it to an end, a man mistreated for his life choices and whose life ended far too soon. There were many bleak moments in Turing’s life and the author does not try to hide any of the ugly truths, rather letting the reader know that despite all of this incredible things can still be achieved. With as much information as is needed for a young audience, everything is simply told as it was and is handled gently and with compassion.
So many important lessons can be learnt from Turing’s life story, but my favourite and probably the most important one, ‘Sometimes it’s the people no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine.’
The story is told in short and simple sentences and is delightfully illustrated with bright and bold artwork. At the back of the book there is a short overview of his life which includes key facts and dates and a historical timeline featuring photographs.
Recommended for 5+.