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Film on Alan Turing

Mon, 4 Nov 2013 6:45 PM - 9:00 PM

Participants are invited to view Codebreaker, a film about the life and work of Alan Turing.  The film will be shown on Monday, November 4, starting at 6:45 in the Health and Human Sciences Building, room 2301.  The film is 80 minutes long.  After the showing, the film's producer will be on hand for Q&A.  More information is below:


A film about Alan Mathison Turing

Alan Turing was one of the great minds of the 20th century. As a mathematician and cryptanalyst, he played an instrumental role in breaking ciphers during World War II, designing machines to automate the process. He continued his work after the War and is considered the father of computer science and artificial intelligence. His later work focused on mathematical biology, leading to contributions in both biology and chemistry.

Turingʼs life ended in tragedy. In 1952, Turing entered into an ill-fated homosexual relationship. As a result, Turing was convicted of gross indecency, stripped of his security clearance, and banned from further cryptographic work for the British government. Given the choice between a lengthy prison sentence and chemical castration, Turing chose the latter. The treatment caused Turingʼs mental health to deteriorate, ending with his suicide in 1954.

Codebreaker is a unique film that combines documentary with drama to tell the story of Turing ʼs contributions and downfall. A preview of the film is available at A couple of your fellow JMU faculty members saw the film at a conference in March and highly recommend it. As such, we are proposing to arrange for a showing of the film at JMU.

What is the event?

As an official viewing, executive producer Patrick Sammon would come to campus, introduce the film, and host a Q&A session after the film.

Why JMU?

As noted before, Turing made contributions to several fields, including mathematics, computer science, philosophy, information security & analysis, biology, chemistry, and computer engineering, among others. This event will help students in those fields to appreciate his contributions. In addition, just as Turingʼs life is tragic, it is also inspirational. It demonstrates the importance and the benefits to working across curricular boundaries.

Finally, the film and the Q&A session fit in perfectly with the Madison Collaborative: Ethical Reasoning in Action. The Q&A session will engage students and faculty in a dialogue about how science and scientists exist as part of a larger social environment.

Why now?

Hosting the event this year would be particularly good timing, as the British government is expected to award a posthumous pardon for Turing in October 2013.


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