Alan Turing’s codebreaking notebook could fetch $1M at auction

22 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

British code breaker Alan Turing’s notebook goes to auction.

It is short, just 56 pages long, and much of it consists of complicated mathematical musings written out in longhand. NEW YORK (AP) — A handwritten notebook by Alan Turing, the World War II code-breaking genius depicted by Benedict Cumberbatch in the Oscar-nominated “The Imitation Game,” is going on the auction block. But it has never been seen before in public, and it provides an exciting insight into how Alan Turing, its author, formulated his theories about mathematical notation and computer science, according to Bonhams auction house.

But Gandy kept something special for himself: A notebook of Turing’s hand-written thoughts, from the period during which he was trying to break the famed Enigma Code. This was at a crucial point in Turing’s career, when he and other code breakers were consumed with cracking Germany’s notorious Enigma code in Bletchley Park, England.

The auction — scheduled for April 13 in New York — comes months after the release of “The Imitation Game,” a biopic of Turing that revived interest in his life among the general public. Turing was gay, a criminal offense in England at the time, and he was forced to undergo hormonal therapy to “cure” him of his sexual orientation after a 1952 conviction. Cassandra Hatton, a senior specialist in the fine books and manuscripts department at Bonhams, wrote in an email that it’s “hard to say” whether increased attention from the film would boost the expected price for the notebook. “Turing items, especially in recent years fetch strong prices at auction,” Hatton noted, adding: “Items relating to other major scientists such as Crick or Watson have seen 7-figure prices at auction.” Gandy died in 1995, and the notebook stayed in his possession, kept private until his death. It certainly implies that some relation between x and y has been laid down eg, y=x2+3x …” Gandy gave the papers to The Archive Centre at King’s College in Cambridge in 1977. A cursory glance at the notebook shows why: The mathematician used the blank spaces in Turing’s notebook to write down the content of his own dreams.

But he held back the notebook, because of what else it contained: a private journal in which he recorded his dreams and discussed intimately personal matters, including his own homosexuality. “It seems a suitable disguise to write in between these thoughts of Alan’s on notation, but possibly a little sinister; a dead father figure, some of whose thoughts I most completely inherited,” Gandy wrote at the beginning of the journal. According to material supplied by Bonhams, the notebook was not seen by anyone – except a Jungian analyst who had treated both Gandy and Turing, instructing them both to keep dream diaries – until Gandy’s death, in 1995. This notebook shines extra light on how, even when he was enmeshed in great world events, he remained committed to free-thinking work in pure mathematics.” (“The Imitation Game” is based on a book about Turing by Hodges.) According to the Associated Press, the current seller of the notebook will remain anonymous.

In its news release, the auction house quoted the Turing scholar Andrew Hodges as saying: “Alan Turing was parsimonious with his words and everything from his pen has special value.

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