British Heritage magazine special issue: ‘Britain at War, September 2000
It was easily the most closely guarded and enduring secret of World War II. Thousands of books, articles and reminiscences by the generals, admirals and civilian leadership masterminding the war were all silent on the subject. The usually loquacious Winston Churchill said nothing about it in his six volume History of the Second World War. The 12,000 men and women who were there, sworn by an oath to king and country, neither spoke nor wrote anything for three decades after the war. They remained silent until the mid 1990s.
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Throughout his life he was misunderstood, ignored, even ridiculed. His manners were gross; his appearance verged on the disreputable. In attempting to explain to colleagues the visionary ideas crammed into his giant intellect, he often relapsed into almost incomprehensible stammering. He was mysterious and contradictory, but in a short life span – only 42 years – his discoveries and inventions saved thousands of lives. Yet, he was unknown in life and almost anonymous in death. Only in recent years have historians finally accorded Alan Turing the status he deserves. In a special edition about the most important people and events of the Twentieth Century, TIME named Alan Turing as one of the 100 most important people of the century. The magazine praised his seminal work on computing, calling it “one of the key crossroads in the advancement of science and technology.”
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Alan Turing’s influence will appear again in other articles on this site, beginning with this piece. It appeared in in September 2000 in a special edition of British Heritage magazine. Learn how this eccentric oddity changed the world – and did it almost entirely in secret.