Sunday, October 26, 2014

Vol. 4 No.77 Alan Turing War Hero and World Class Marthoner Film Subject

October 26, 2014

I was watching CBS  Sunday Morning this A.M. where there was a story about the cryptographers who broke the Nazi codes with a computer developed at Bletchley Park north of London duringWWII.   A new film, "The Imitation Game" starring Benedict Cumberbatch about those incredible days will  be released in November .  So now two WWII heroes/runners  will  be honored on film this year.  Louis Zamperini's  story, "Unbroken"  will be released on Christmas day.

Review of The Imitation Game by James Grime on his blog

Trailer only

 The person who receives most of the credit for that work Alan Turing was or became a world class marathoner after the War and placed fifth in the British Olympic trials in 1948 with a personal best time of 2hours 46 minutes.  In the Bletchley Park days he would occasionally run the thirty miles to London from Bletchley to attend meetings, and presumably to 'think' about his work. 
Bletchley Park

Unlike  Zamperini's story, Turing's could not be told for thirty years due to the Official Secrets Act that remained in place all that time. Turing,  continued to work outside the limelight for the brief remainder of his life,  while the historians now credit him with shortening the War by two years.

While  Zamperini was able to recover from his terrible ordeals at the hands of his captors and received the plaudits and thanks of his countrymen for the next fifty years, Turing  was kept off stage and ultimately condemned by the laws of the land he had worked so hard to save. He was gay and was caught and punished by his countrymen by having to submit to chemical castration  ie. doses of female hormones that would destroy his libido.  He lived until 1954 when he died under strange circumstances listed as suicide by potassium cyanide possibly on an apple which he habitually consumed each evening before turning in.  The cause of death may also have been the result  of poorly stored chemicals used in a gold refining process he was conducting in his home.  

Today there is a group of people working to restore his reputation.  They have also tried to put his name on a marathon in England.   The work Turing did developing the machine that broke the codes is nothing short of remarkable.  His reputation is slowly being restored including a pardon from PM Gordon Brown several years ago, and a recent declaration on his behalf from the Queen.  Again a small bit of irony is that the man with whom Turing was having an affair was let off lightly by the authorities.

Turing running in December 1946, coming second in a race on National Physical Laboratory Sports Day (Turing worked at NPL at the time).  NPL is based on the edge of  Bushy Park (Teddington), and the NPL Sports Club has had its own grounds there since 1912. So it seems very likely that this race took place there. In addition it is recorded in biographies that he sometimes ran to work meetings while based at Bushy Park, so it's almost certain that he ran in the park. Bushy Park today is of course very popular with runners as the place where parkrun started out in 2004 - and where up to 1,000 people still run every Saturday morning.  from the blog Go Run

Being a native of Dayton, Ohio I was intrigued to find reference to Alan Turing's visit to the National Cash Register Company in Dayton in 1942 to study and share information with research and development of a similar code breaking machine.  see below

You can explore his life in great detail including the technical cybertech side at this same site.

The New Yorker published an in depth story on Turing in 2006.

From Richard Mach

"Many credit him with the critical thinking that presaged the workings of the modern computer.  He used running --I once read -- to get away from the awful pressures that were man killing -- both around living covertly with his sexual identity and the fight the free world was in against the madman, Hitler, of which he played such a crucial part.  That a government would effectively then demonize a man whom less than a decade earlier had played such a large part in 'saving' the free world is a look inside the underpinning mentality of this then already diminishing Empire.  Saw the very brief rushes on Jolie's "Unbroken" and I was not particularly impressed -- too much 'feel good' and 'oh isn't it awful' and given Jolie's progressive orientation overly simplistic. My coach, George Dales, who I recently composed a tribute to that was given during our reunion/celebration back  in early October of  the 50th year anniversary of the 64-65 national X-C championships told me he saw Zamparini compete.  George is 93 years young, has slowed down maybe half a step and is still going strong.  Richard Pond, my All American teammate from the 1960 X-C team, who also ran 4:06 but some seven years after Sir Roger first broke 4 will be inducted posthumously on 14 Nov into the WMU Hall of Fame.  Dick lost his life to cancer when he was but 52 years old. The athletic department has hardly been partial to former track and field and cross country stars getting any press, however belatedly, once they axed both sports in 2004 despite the fact those two sports were WMU's most heavily represented ones in Div I championship play.  Borders on something akin to a bit of a miracle." 

No comments:

V 8 N. 43 Book Review "My Marathon, Reflections on a Gold Medal Life" by Frank Shorter and John Brant

To read an autobiography of someone who was a contemporary, though miles above one's own abilities in the sport of long distance runni...