A Big Screen Reveal of Big Heroes: The Imitation Game


Many scientists exerted extensive efforts to benefit people by their research and inventions; yet, not many know their stories or what they have achieved. Here comes the role of the media to shed light on their lives and show people what they endured for the sake of their comfort. We present here an example, which is The Imitation Game movie (2014).

Featuring Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, and Matthew Goode, The Imitation Game is not a tragedy; it is a celebration of Alan Turing’s extraordinary achievements through decrypting German intelligence codes for the British Government during World War II.

Born on 23 June 1912 in London, Turing showed signs of high intelligence at a young age; at the age of thirteen, he became particularly interested in mathematics and science. In 1936, Turing delivered a paper on computable numbers, with an application to the Entscheidungsproblem (German for decision problem), in which he presented the notion of a universal machine later called the “Universal Turing Machine”. This machine is capable of computing anything that is computable; the central concept of the modern computer was based on Turing’s paper.

Over the next two years, Turing studied mathematics and cryptology at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. He then returned to Cambridge after receiving his PhD from Princeton University in 1938, to take a part-time position with the Government Code and Cypher School—a British code-breaking organization.

During World War II, Turing was a leading participant in wartime code-breaking, particularly that of German ciphers. He worked at Bletchley Park where he made five major advances in the field of cryptanalysis, including specifying the bombe, an electromechanical device used to help decipher German Enigma encrypted signals. Shortly after World War II, Alan Turing was awarded an Order of the British Empire for his work.

Time magazine named Turing one of its “100 Most Important People of the 20th century”, stating “The fact remains that everyone who taps at a keyboard, opening a spreadsheet or a word-processing program, is working on an incarnation of a Turing machine”. Turing was also ranked 21st on the BBC nationwide poll of the “100 Greatest Britons” in 2002. Turing has been recognized for his impact on computer science, with many crediting him as the “founder” of the field.



*Published in SCIplanet, Autumn 2016 Issue "The Invisible People of Science".

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