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Alan Turing: The Man Behind the Myth

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Computer science pioneer Alan Turing.

The nephew of mathematician and codebreaking pioneer Alan Turing is seeking to debunk myths about his famous uncle that have arisen in the media.

Credit: Getty Images

Famed mathematician and codebreaking pioneer Alan Turing's nephew Sir Dermot Turing's new biography, "Alan Turing Decoded," seeks to debunk myths surrounding his uncle that have been promulgated by the media.

Sir Dermot says, contrary to the public's assumptions, his uncle was not "impossible to deal with," but instead "was difficult to follow if he was explaining something."

Some of Turing's most significant claims to fame include his work on developing a "universal machine" that set the foundation for modern computer science, and his role in decrypting the German military's Enigma code in the Second World War. Sir Dermot says his uncle's codebreaking work was more or less completed by mid-1942, and for the remainder of the war he was focused on Allied communications security. During this period, Turing concentrated on advancing voice encryption, so the British prime minister and the U.S. president could have a phone conversation without worrying about their communications being tapped.

Sir Dermot also says Turing spent time working on the encryption of telegraph and radio messages. "Previous accounts of what he'd been doing during that period had been incomplete," Sir Dermot notes. "We've now got a much better picture."

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