Shalom Life | January 23, 2015

Notebook of Alan Turing, Subject of 'The Imitation Game,' Up for $1 Million Auction

Contains notes, and formulas, used by Turing to crack the German 'Enigma' code during WWII

By: Caitlin Marceau

Published: January 22nd, 2015 in Business » World

Photo: Alan Turing


Alan Turing’s notebook is up for auction and it’s suspected the item could go for as much as $1 million or more. The famous mathematician best known for breaking a seemingly unbreakable Nazi code during the Second World War, an Enigma code that was used by the Germans, has recently been listed by Bonhams as an item coming up in their April 13th auction.

The handwritten notebook contains mathematical formulas used by Turing to try and decipher the code, as well as musings over the information discovered, according to reports. "The Leibniz notation I find extremely difficult to understand in spite of it having been the one I understood the best once!” he wrote in the journal. “It certainly implies that some relation between x and y has been laid down eg, y x2+3x ..."

The notebook, along with other papers, were left to Turing’s close friend and fellow mathematician, Robin Gandy, in his will. Turning was a homosexual during a time in England when it was illegal, and he’d even been convicted of “indecency” in 1952. To avoid jail time, he opted to undergo a hormone treatment as a means to change his sexual orientation. However it proved too much on Turing, who took his life in 1954.

Although Gandy donated the papers to The Archive Centre at King’s College, he kept the book for himself. Gandy even added notes detailing his personal and intimate dreams to the book as requested by his psychiatrist. The book remained in Gandy’s possession until his passing in 1995. According to Bonhams, the current owner of Turing and Gandy’s book wishes to remain anonymous, but states that a portion of the proceeds raised from the sale will be donated to charity.

Turing’s story about his work breaking Germany’s Enigma code in World War II has recently been turned into an Oscar nominated movie, The Imitation Game, based off of the book Alan Turing: An Enigma by Andrew Hodges. The film stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley, and is currently playing in theaters.

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