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Enigma machine goes on display at The Alan Turing Institute

Today an original Enigma machine has gone on display at The Alan Turing Institute.

The Enigma M4 machine arrives at The Alan Turing Institute on loan from GCHQ (photographer credit Clare Kendall).

The machine is loaned for display from GCHQ, who have partnered with the Institute to undertake research into data science for defence and security. The display aims to celebrate the legacy of Alan Turing and his fellow code-breakers at Bletchley Park who famously broke the enigma cipher, and recognise the continuing scientific legacy of Turing’s pioneering work in mathematics, statistics, engineering and computing, which lives on at The Alan Turing Institute.

The Enigma machine on display was manufactured in 1944 and used exclusively for the encryption of communications between the U-boat division of the German Navy and its Naval bases. An M4 model, it offers 4,134 million million million possible ways in which it could be set up.

The machine was famously broken after Alan Turing (23 June 1912 – 7 June 1954) and his fellow code-breakers at Bletchley Park devised an electro-mechanical device called the ‘Bombe’ to speed up the process of finding the key to each day’s Enigma messages.

From August 1940 onwards, Bombe machines were used to find keys which allowed thousands of Enigma messages to be decrypted every month.

The display of the machine coincides with a special event dedicated to Alan Turing’s legacy as part of the current British Library’s exhibition, Gay UK: Love, Law and Liberty, marking the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality.

Sir John Dermot Turing, nephew of Alan Turing, commented:

“Alan Turing wanted to work on the German Navy version of Enigma because it was one of the toughest problems they had at Bletchley Park. Success against the Enigma played a major role in the Battle of the Atlantic, as it enabled convoys to be re-routed around the wolf-packs of U-boats. It is tremendous to see one of these rare machines which is so closely linked to Alan Turing’s achievements here at the Institute which bears his name.”

Kirstie Whitaker, a Research Fellow at The Alan Turing Institute, commented:

“Alan Turing’s pioneering work in mathematics, engineering and computing endures as an example of what scientists can do when they dream to change the world. The Enigma machine installed at the British Library will encourage and motivate me and all my colleagues at the Institute as we walk past it into work every day. Thank you to GCHQ for this invaluable loan. I am delighted to mark Turing’s legacy during Monday’s special event with the British Library.”

Notes to editors

The Alan Turing: Life, Work, Legacy event takes place on Monday 24 July, 19.00-20.30, in collaboration with the British Library.

It is part a series of public events to mark the British Library exhibition, Gay UK: Love, Law and Liberty, which features Alan Turing’s story. The exhibition is open until Tuesday 19 September 2017 and is free to enter.

About Alan Turing

Alan Turing is now celebrated for his crucial contribution to the Allied victory in WW2 and for being the genius mathematician who set the foundations of modern computing. However, during his lifetime he was a relatively obscure figure. A victim of the prevalent attitudes toward homosexuality, he was chemically castrated before dying at the age of 41.

About The Alan Turing Institute

The Alan Turing Institute is the UK’s national centre for data science, headquartered at the British Library. The Institute is named in honour of Alan Turing, whose pioneering work in theoretical and applied mathematics, engineering and computing are considered to be the key disciplines comprising the emerging field of data science. It was founded in 2015 as a joint venture by the universities of Cambridge, Edinburgh, Oxford, University College London, Warwick and the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

About GCHQ

Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) is one of the three UK intelligence and security agencies. GCHQ works to protect the UK and its citizens from a range of threats to national security, including from terrorism, serious and organised crime and cyber attack. It also works to protect UK forces wherever they are deployed. The National Cyber Security Centre, as part of GCHQ, is the UK’s authority on cyber security. Further information about GCHQ can be found at www.gchq.gov.uk.

About the British Library

The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom and one of the world’s greatest research libraries. It provides world class information services to the academic, business, research and scientific communities and offers unparalleled access to the world’s largest and most comprehensive research collection. The Library’s collection has developed over 250 years and exceeds 150 million separate items representing every age of written civilisation and includes books, journals, manuscripts, maps, stamps, music, patents, photographs, newspapers and sound recordings in all written and spoken languages. Up to 10 million people visit the British Library website – www.bl.uk – every year where they can view up to 4 million digitised collection items and over 40 million pages.

About Sir John Dermot Turing

Dermot Turing is Alan Turing’s nephew and a trustee of Bletchley Park. His biography of Alan Turing, containing the results of new research and a new perspective on Alan Turing’s life, was published in 2015 (Prof – Alan Turing decoded, published by The History Press).

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