Alan Turing Computing Document Sells for $315,000 at Bonhams

One of the most important twentieth century computer papers, written by the mathematical genius Alan Turing, has sold for £205,250 at Bonhams Books, Maps, Manuscripts and Photographs sale in London this week.  

In the paper, ‘On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem', Turing introduced the concept of a computing device that would replicate the mathematical reasoning abilities and thought processes of the human brain.  This led to the development of Turing Machines and Universal Turing Machines which are acknowledged as the forerunners of the modern computer.  Turing is often described as the father of computer science and artificial intelligence.

Turing delivered the paper in November 1936, when he was only 24, to the London Mathematical Society and sent this copy to the Cambridge philosopher R B Braithwaite at his request in February 1937.

During World War II Turing worked at Bletchley Park where he played a defining role in developing the technology which enabled the British to break secret German codes.  Commenting on Turing’s work at Bletchley, the historian Asa Briggs said, “You needed exceptional talent, you needed genius at Bletchley and Turing's was that genius.”

Head of Bonhams UK Book Department, Matthew Haley said, “The contribution of this work to the history of computer science and, therefore, to the history of our own time is immense and explains why it was so keenly sought after.”

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