Privatdozent Photo Edition #6
Alan Turing in a garden in Dene Road, Guildford (1928)
Alan Turing (1912-54) is known for many things, but his love of America is not one of them. This despite the fact that he spent considerable amounts of time in the U.S. in the 1930s, and again in 1942-43. Turing first came to Princeton in 1936 to conduct Ph.D. studies. As an undergraduate at Cambridge he had worked on Hilbert’s Entscheidungs (“decision problem”) problem, showing as early as 1935 that there can not exist an algorithm that can determine whether an inference in a formal logic system is valid. His mentor Max Newman (1897-1984) encouraged the young Turing (23 at the time) to publish. Before he managed to do so however, Princeton mathematician Alonzo Church (1903-95) established the same result using a different method.
Newman, realizing that Princeton had much more to offer Turing than did Cambridge, wrote Church seeking support for him to travel across the Atlantic for his Ph.D. studies. He got Church’s support and set off to America in the summer of 1936. Turing hoped to see his idol Kurt Gödel (1906-1978) while in Princeton, but never managed to actually meet him—as Gödel in the 30s was struggling mentally, travelling back and fourth between Vienna and Princeton every other year or so.
Read more about Alan Turing in the following previous issues of Privatdozent:
Alan Turing in America, May 14th 2021
Turing Uncomputability, August 13th 2021
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Photograph courtesy of the Guildford Dragon News. Send inquiries about unwanted use/copyright claims to privatdozent @ protonmail.com.