odebreaker is an exhibition developed by the Science Museum to celebrate the centenary of the birth of this pioneering British figure.

Alan Turing is most widely known for his critical involvement in the codebreaking at Bletchley Park during the Second World War. But Alan Turing was not just a codebreaker.

This British mathematician was also a philosopher and computing pioneer who grappled with the fundamental problems of life itself. His ideas have helped shape the modern world, including early computer programming and even the seeds of artificial intelligence. This exhibition tells the story of Turing and his most important ideas.

At the heart of the exhibition is the Pilot ACE computer, built to Turing’s ground-breaking design. It is the most significant surviving Turing artefact in existence.

Alongside this remarkable machine is a sequence of exhibits showcasing Turing’s breadth of talent. Together with interactive exhibits, personal recollections and a wealth of historic imagery, the exhibition offers an absorbing retrospective view of one of Britain’s greatest twentieth-century thinkers.




At Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire, thousands
of men and women laboured night and day to
crack these coded radio messages which held
Germany’s most secret plans. One of these
codebreakers was Alan Turing.
But Turing was not just a codebreaker. Born
100 years ago, this British mathematician was
also a philosopher and computing pioneer
who grappled with some of the fundamental
problems of life itself. Yet his own life was cut
tragically short. In 1954 he was found dead,
poisoned by cyanide. He was 41.

Computing before computers
2. Alan Turing’s war
3. ACE – the Automatic Computing Engine
4. Can machines think?
5. A matter of life and death
6. Programming computers today

computers. The first were built in the 1940s.calculations. aiming aircraft bombs or solving certain mathematical equations.

Calculating machine used at the Scientific Computing Service, c. 1939

Aircraft bomb-aiming mechanical computer, c. 1942 used to aim the bombs, taking factors such as aircraft height and speed and weather conditions. mechanical computers. 

Meccano differential analyser  by Douglas Hartree, rebuilt c. 1947 complex mathematical equations . electromechanical computers. movement of  gears as the physical analogue of the mathematical relationships. 

Enigma machine, 1937. war. Bletchley Park itself, tended by the Women’s Royal Naval Service. decryption processes . used in submarine U-boats

Punched-card machine by British Tabulating Machines, c. 1930 .  1930s commercial data-processing was the preserve of punched-card machines. ‘Hollerith’ . 

Pilot ACE. computer 1950. first electronic ‘universal’  computers. Automatic Computing Engine or ACE . binary digits 

the ‘electronic brain’, 1950 . simulate thought processes in machines . thinking machines.

‘The Nature of Spirit’, by Alan Turing, 1932 essay . machine intelligence. 

‘I think that spirit is really eternally
connected with matter, but certainly not always
by the same kind of body … when the body dies
the “mechanism” of the body, holding the spirit
is gone and the spirit finds a new body sooner or
later perhaps immediately.’

Electrical logic machine testing logical propositions 

Mechanical logic machine performed logical  operations mechanically.


Cybernetic tortoise neurologist  investigate brain function cybernetics researchers 

he was found dead in his bed in 1954. The official verdict was suicide.

turing fields of research : cybernetics , morphogenesis , pattern formation and growth in nature, mathematics, chemistry and life, new electronic computer, 

nowadays usefor computers: lightings, robots, 



Electrical logic machine by Dietrich Prinz and Wolfe Mays

This machine was made at Manchester University by physicist Dietrich Prinz, one of Alan Turing’s protégés, and Wolfe Mays, a 36-year-old philosophy lecturer.

It is an electrical device for testing logical propositions, built mostly from RAF spare parts left over from the Second World War, and was unique in Britain at the time.

The Pilot ACE computer

his was one of the first electronic ‘universal’ computers. Its fundamental design was by Alan Turing, who wrote the specification in 1945 while working at the government’s National Physical Laboratory. It was completed in 1950.

Turing’s idea was to build a large computer, to be known as the Automatic Computing Engine or ACE. But slow progress, coupled with changes in project direction imposed on Turing, left him deeply frustrated, and he quit in 1948. This small-scale trial version, called Pilot ACE, was completed in his ab