Saturday, June 23, 2012

Philatelic tribute to Alan Turing

As a computer addict I could not miss, today, the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Alan Turing. Alan Turing (23rd of June 1912 – 7th of June 1954) was an English mathematician, logician and computer scientist. He probably does not have the public notoriety he should have, as he can be considered as the father of computer science and artificial intelligence. Said differently, without him, our world which is massively making use of computers, would be surely different.
He is also well known as the creator of the bombe, the machine that helped cracking the Enigma machine, playing a major role in the second world war.

Despite his contribution during the war and his contribution on all discoveries in his domain, he had a very sad death. Arrested in 1952 because of his homosexuality (homosexuality was a crime at this time in Great Britain) he committed suicide in 1954. The story says that he was found lying on his bed, with a half-eaten apple supposed to be full of cyanide.

David Leavitt, a British author who wrote a biography of Alan Turing, has suggested that Turing was re-enacting a scene from the 1937 film Snow White, his favorite tale. Urban legends also say that the logo of Apple would be inspired from Alan Turing’s death, but this has been denied by the creator of the logo.

I have always felt moved by the tragic fate of this man, this is why I decided to write this post today.

I searched for stamps picturing Alan Turing and I did not find so many finally.

He was first mentioned on the booklet page issued in 1999 by Great Britain in the Millennium series. As you can see the page tells the important dates of his life but he is not clearly pictured.


He appears on a stamp issued on the 13th of March 2000 by Saint Vincent in the Millennium series. Turing appears on a background picturing the binary system with 1 and 0.

On the 15th of July 2005 Saint Helena issued a series to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II. Turing is pictured on one of the stamps with the Enigma machine.
In 2008 he appears on questionable stamps from Guinea (I say questionable stamps as I wonder how many of these stamps have seen a cover…)

Finally early this year, on the 23rd of February 2012, Great Britain has issued a set of stamps commemorating Britons of distinction. Turing is part of this set with a stamp picturing the bombe.
But as you see, again his mother country chose not to represent a portrait of him on the stamp. I wonder why…



thank you for your post.There is so much detail.

OLDDUFFER1 said...

And the Royal Mail explanation was that there was "not a suitable portrait available"!