Campus / Image / Media / News / October 2, 2012

Decoding Alan Turing, the father of computer science

Professor of Computer Science John Dooley discusses the life of Alan Turing and how he broke the code on the Enigma machine during World War II Thursday, Sept. 27. According to Dooley, “Turing was not an outcast, but an odd fellow.” He ended up at Cambridge studying mathematics and wrote a paper titled “On Computable Numbers,” which later became the foundation for the rest of his work in the field of computer science. Around the time he wrote this paper, he was invited to learn cryptography through a government training course with the Government Code and Cyber School, similar to the American CIA. With encroachment of war, he had to agree to return to the government when summoned and on Sept. 3, 1939 received a letter stating, “Auntie Flo is not so well.” Upon deciphering this message, he ended up at Bletchly Park, where he worked for the British government throughout the war, decoding the Enigma. (Michelle Orr/TKS)

Professor of Computer Science John Dooley describes how the Enigma machine works during his lecture about Alan Turing during World War II Thursday, Sept. 27. The Enigma machine was an encryption device used by the German army to send coded messages. The machine was patented in 1918 by German engineer Arthur Scherbius. It resembles a typewriter that runs on a battery. Out a possibility of five rotors, three were combined and turned at different times to scramble the alphabet, in total allowing for combinations of up to 1,054,560 alphabets. “Every time you type something, you’re using a different alphabet,” Dooley said. Pins in the rotor were linked to the keys and correspond to a different letter on the rotor, never allowing the letter to be self-encoded. (Michelle Orr/TKS)

Tags:  alan turing codes computer science cryptography enigma john dooley lectures turing world war II WWII

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