Newfound Letters From Alan Turing: 'I Detest America'

Collection of nearly 150 of the codebreaker's notes found in university filing cabinet
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 28, 2017 8:27 AM CDT
Newfound Letters From Alan Turing: 'I Detest America'
In this March 19, 2015, file photo, a page from the notebook of British mathematician Alan Turing is displayed in front of his portrait during an auction preview in Hong Kong.   (AP Photo/Kin Cheung, File)

Alan Turing hated the United States. That's one nugget revealed in a trove of old letters recently unearthed in a storeroom filing cabinet at the University of Manchester. The Guardian reports the collection of 148 notes, which apparently hadn't seen the light of day in at least three decades, spanned from 1949 until the British mathematician's death in 1954. The letters penned by Turing—who helped helm the university's computing laboratory from 1948 on, after breaking the Nazi Enigma code during World War II—were discovered by one of the college's computer science professors, who said he located them in a nondescript-looking file with the words "Alan Turing" written across it. "I initially thought: 'That can't be what I think it is,'" Jim Miles says, with Engadget adding he at first thought someone had simply reused Turing's folder.

The letters don't get much into Turing's personal life: He was convicted in 1952 of "gross indecency" for a homosexual relationship and chemically castrated, and he died of cyanide poisoning in June 1954 in what's widely believed to have been a suicide. Instead, the notes mainly touch on his academic work in math, computing, and artificial intelligence—in other words, "mostly 'work stuff' you would expect a busy academic to have piling up on his desk," per ScienceAlert. As for that slam against the United States: Turing had been asked to speak at a conference there in 1953 and replied, "I would not like the journey, and I detest America," without elaborating on his displeasure. Check out the descriptions of each letter here. (A number of mathematicians have met with awful fates.)

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