Fight begins to save Turing papers

A collection of rare offprints of computer pioneer Alan Turing's papers is due to go up for auction at the end of the month, and the fight has begun to secure them for the public in Bletchley Park.

Alan Turing is often considered the pioneer of modern computing. During his work at Bletchley Park's Station X in World War II, he formulated the concept of a 'universal computer' - the idea that any computer, given time and memory, could perform the same task as any other computer - that underpins all computing today.

Turing was also a war hero, working with a team of scientists in secret to develop electromechanical and electronic apparatus to decode the German Enigma cipher and retrieve valuable intel for Allied forces.

Sadly, he died in 1954 after eating a cyanide-laced apple - an escape from the prejudice he faced after being outed as gay at a time when such things were deemed illegal by UK law.

Now, a rare collection of Turing's papers, gathered by his friend Professor Maxwell Newman, has come up for auction - the first such sale for over thirty-five years.

The documents, which include a copy of Turing's seminal 'On computable numbers, with an application to the Entscheidungsproblem' and other paperwork with hand-written annotations and signatures by Prof. Newman, Turing, and others, are of extreme historical importance - a fact reflected by an extremely high expected sale price of between £300,000 and £500,000.

Bletchley Park, where Turing performed much of his work, is now a museum dedicated to the secretive efforts of Turing and the other codebreakers, and an obvious home for the rare papers - but the Bletchley Park Trust, the charity which runs the museum, can't possibly afford to buy them.

Accordingly, a campaign has begun - organised by yours truly - to gather donations so that the papers can be purchased at auction and put on public display at the Bletchley Park museum. It's an independent effort, but already has some major support under its belt.

The biggest boost to the campaign thus far has been a donation from an anonymous source of an incredibly generous £10,000. Individual donations have been pouring in from computing and history enthusiasts, too, with the total now standing at almost £11,400 after just three days.

There is, however, a long way to go before the auction starts on the 23rd of November - so if you enjoy the benefits of technology, please consider giving something back to preserve the memory of the man largely responsible for the face of modern computing.

More information, plus a link to donate, is available on the JustGiving page.