A hand-written notebook featuring Alan Turing’s thoughts on mathematical notation has gone on public display for the first time, at Bletchley Park. The manuscript, which was sold at auction in 2016, has been loaned to the museum for one year and is on display alongside other personal effects belonging to Turing.
Dermot Turing, Bletchley Park Trustee and nephew of Alan Turing, said: “When Alan was at Bletchley Park everyone knows he was breaking the Enigma code. But less well known is that he was also spending a lot of time working on problems in mathematics. He wrote this notebook probably quite early on in World War Two when he was thinking about the way in which we write mathematical formulae. It’s a commentary on what’s wrong with notation.”
The notebook is on display alongside 16 of Turing’s 18 published papers, which have been described as ‘an unparalleled collection of the writings of the founder of modern computing science’. The collection, originally compiled by another Bletchley Park codebreaking giant, Max Newman, contains several specimens of Turing’s signature.
Peronel Craddock, Head of Collections and Exhibitions at Bletchley Park, said: “It is wonderful to have the opportunity to display this notebook for the first time and we are very grateful to the lender. It really adds to our understanding of Turing, as his personality comes through in his critique of others’ theories.”
Bletchley Park is open daily and tickets cost just £16 when booked in advance online and give unlimited access for one year.
Image: A page from Alan Turing’s notebook, now on public display at Bletchley Park. Photography by Ila Desai © Bletchley Park Trust