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Fight Begins To Secure Turing Papers For Bletchley Park Museum

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the not-just-apple-Is-any-more dept.

Education 66

Blacklaw writes "Auction house Christie's is planning to sell offprints of Alan Turing's early work for an estimated £500,000 — and the fight has begun to raise the money so UK codebreaking museum and charity Bletchley Park can house the documents in the building where Turing performed his war-winning work and birthed the concept of a modern 'universal computer.' If the money isn't raised, the papers could disappear into a private archive, never to be seen again."

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Love to play Devil's Advocate... (1)

kbonapart (645754) | more than 3 years ago | (#34214400)

Is a private collection a bad thing?

Worst case scenario, they are lost forever in a private archive by a fire. Granted, worst case.

Medium case, the papers are held privately, but returned to light at the owner's or heir's choosing.

Best case, they are held but allowed to be in a public museum for viewing.


It's a somewhat obscure purchase. Would someone willing to spend that much on those papers be unsympathetic to the ideas behind the papers?

Re:Love to play Devil's Advocate... (1)

mewrei (1206850) | more than 3 years ago | (#34214518)

Should we get together a bunch of slashdotters to contribute to a community fund to purchase the documents and release them? I'd definitely fork out some cash for this.

Re:Love to play Devil's Advocate... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34214628)

These are off-prints, i.e., free sample copies of a journal article that authors are given.
Chances are, you can already go to a good university library and make photocopies of the articles.

If your university has a subscription, you can also see the articles on JSTOR:
http://www.jstor.org/action/doBasicSearch?Query=au:(Turing)

Re:Love to play Devil's Advocate... (1)

jonbryce (703250) | more than 3 years ago | (#34214890)

You won't be buying the copyright, just the original physical article.

Re:Love to play Devil's Advocate... (2, Insightful)

Xest (935314) | more than 3 years ago | (#34217228)

Just donate to Bletchley if you're interested, they're the experts at handling this kind of material and making it available for the public, better to let them do it and give them your money.

Re:Love to play Devil's Advocate... (2, Insightful)

obarthelemy (160321) | more than 3 years ago | (#34214552)

Plus I'm sure there's pictures and copies of those papers around. I'm all for a bit of fetichism and idolatry, but I'm surprised geeks play at it too.

Re:Love to play Devil's Advocate... (5, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 3 years ago | (#34214680)

I'm surprised too. I mean, what's the interest in them being in the museum? It's not like they're original manuscripts, they're just the first print runs. Turing's papers are interesting for their content, not for the paper that they're printed on, and no one is going to go to a museum to read a paper (awkwardly displayed in a glass case in a dimly lit room so the print doesn't fade), when you can easily grab a PDF online. Turing's papers are fascinating, and I'd expect computer scientists to read them, but I don't see the attraction in collecting the offprints.

Re:Love to play Devil's Advocate... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34215796)

Would you say the same about a famous painter's works?

Re:Love to play Devil's Advocate... (2, Informative)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 3 years ago | (#34215868)

These aren't the equivalent to a famous painter's works, they are equivalent to the first run of prints that a publisher made from a painter's work. They are not the papers written by Turing, they are the first run from the printing press after the publisher took them and typeset them.

Re:Love to play Devil's Advocate... (1)

RockDoctor (15477) | more than 3 years ago | (#34221214)

Preprints are interesting in their own right. My collection of preprints (culled from the Departmental Library with permission, when the library was having a throwing out session) includes the signatures of one of the first geochronologists, on several papers documenting improving methods of geochronology and the first really scientific estimates of the age of the Earth. I also have the signature of one of the last people to see Malloy and Irvine on Everest.

While I'm a Friend of Bletchley Park (it's only a few miles from my home town), I'm debating with myself whether to contribute. Turing's early work was done IIRC at Cambridge, and his later work at Manchester ; they have as much "right" to the preprints (signatures, notes ...) as Bletchley Park. Though in the popular mind, Turing is most strongly associated with Station X.

Hmmm, I'll have a think about that over lunch.

Re:Love to play Devil's Advocate... (3, Funny)

RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) | more than 3 years ago | (#34214648)

This belongs in a MUSEUM. </Indiana_jones>

The lesson of politics is that... (1, Insightful)

pegdhcp (1158827) | more than 3 years ago | (#34214412)

.... They are trying to make us to forget the government had him killed at the end...

Re:The lesson of politics is that... (1)

mister_dave (1613441) | more than 3 years ago | (#34214460)

Alan Turing committed suicide. He was not assassinated by Men In Black.

Bletchley Park [bletchleypark.org.uk] is not a front organisation for The Nasty Government.

Re:The lesson of politics is that... (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#34214474)

Well... the UK Government was treating him pretty badly at the time.

Re:The lesson of politics is that... (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 3 years ago | (#34216314)

So why all the fuss about those children that have been bullied and committed suicide? Noone has ever as much as touched them, so all's OK, isn't it?

Re:The lesson of politics is that... (5, Informative)

sgt101 (120604) | more than 3 years ago | (#34214472)

You are trolling, but for the sake of accuracy here is what is generally acknowledged to be the case.

- after the war he struggled to get the kind of role and financial support he should have been given without a quibble or a bat of the eye - he eventually got a very good job at the University of Manchester, which is a great place, but it is amazing that he wasn't treated as a national treasure (was it 2 of Hilberts challenges he solved? Even allowing for the secrecy around the work during the war someone in the know should have pushed it on that basis)
- he was targeted for blackmail due to being gay when it was illegal
- the police arrested him and he was prosecuted and punished with hormone therapy
- the depression caused by the therapy and the awful behavior of society towards him, and his own personal isolation caused him to take his life
- he did it in such a way to allow his mother to go on believing that it was an accident

In 1956 the UK government had no reason to kill him, in fact it never did - quite the opposite. Instead they treated a great man with indifference and contempt because of his sexuality. I can't say that I can think of a more pathetic story in all senses of the word.

If you want to feel worse about it (as a human) then think what might have been if he had lived 25 more years and had enjoyed the appropriate support

Re:The lesson of politics is that... (5, Insightful)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 3 years ago | (#34214554)

They still killed him - by hate and indifference. You do not have to pull the trigger to kill a man. I fully agree that this is one of the most pathetic stories of the modern age.

Re:The lesson of politics is that... (-1, Troll)

FuckingNickName (1362625) | more than 3 years ago | (#34214568)

Oh please, everyone has and/or is aware of the gay at some stage if they went through Public school, and no-one cared or cares. He would normally have been left alone, so he must have been picked on because it was in some way politically expedient. In the worst case, it was mirroring the homosexuality scapegoat of US intelligence; more likely he had a combination of opinions and information that the government didn't want him to have any more. Who knows?

All that's clear is that it wasn't just "because he was gay", because he was neither being made an example of for his homosexuality (e.g. as Wilde), nor was he too low down the pecking order to get away with being gay.

Re:The lesson of politics is that... (0, Redundant)

FuckingNickName (1362625) | more than 3 years ago | (#34214672)

Can someone please explain why the above post was moderated down? I have suggested that he was not driven to suicide for being homosexual, since anyone in the right situation could get away with practising homosexuality. IOW it was a very selectively enforced law. Recall Churchill on the Navy: rum, sodomy and the lash.

In what way is this is trolling? thanks.

Re:The lesson of politics is that... (2, Informative)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 3 years ago | (#34214688)

It's a troll because you completely disregard history. It was not a selectively enforced law. Try reading The Ballad of Reading Gaol some time - lots of people went to prison for sodomy, the only requirement was evidence.

Re:The lesson of politics is that... (-1, Redundant)

FuckingNickName (1362625) | more than 3 years ago | (#34214722)

Lots of people are discovered by or reported to the law for tax evasion, and for any number of regulatory crimes - which is what sodomy laws essentially were (as, of course, are drugs laws). At any one time many people will be enjoying sanctions and some a custodial sentence.

This is not evidence that the regulations are fairly and universally applied.

Re:The lesson of politics is that... (1)

Doctorer (1017662) | more than 3 years ago | (#34214608)

Just for the sake of objectivity - did the authorities believe the hormone therapy a punishment or a treatment? If they thought it a treatment (since homosexuality has throughout all of human history been considered more a disordered inclination rather than a calculatedly malevolent crime) then it would be more appropriate to attribute the authorities with a benevolent intent (curing a problem) rather than a(n arguably) penal intent (exacting retribution for wrong done).

Re:The lesson of politics is that... (3, Informative)

wlad (1171323) | more than 3 years ago | (#34214660)

This is an incredibly sad story, I always found it one of the most hateful stories about human behaviour but also a good lesson. People with extraordinary talent are used as long as they are needed, then the 'war' is over and the public doesn't care about them anymore. Then they turn into just another pawn that can be used for political games because they are 'different' in some way. Your past performances in no way protect you, as people take those for granted. In a way, it's the comparable to how soldiers/war heroes are treated, for example those with post traumatic stress. Locked away and forgotten.

Re:The lesson of politics is that... (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 3 years ago | (#34216448)

If you want to read an even more pathethic WWII story, read how the Czechoslovak fighters flying with RAF returned home only to be put into labour camps and prisons for kicking the common enemy's ass from the (politicaly) wrong country.

Re:The lesson of politics is that... (5, Insightful)

tchdab1 (164848) | more than 3 years ago | (#34216848)

What must be more sad (if it's a question of volume) is that uncounted numbers of people like Turing were then, before, and are treated this way today, but there is no sympathy or support or help for them because they are just people and not geniuses. We don't know who most of them are because, like Turing, they hide the truth from most people in their lives.
They may not be subject to hormone therapy (though some were) but are ostracized, ridiculed, excluded, persecuted, killed. Even here on Slashdot surrounded by supposedly smart people.
We can do better.

Re:The lesson of politics is that... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34214696)

- the police arrested him and he was prosecuted and punished with hormone therapy

Let's call a spade a spade. He was chemically castrated, and he committed suicide because of it in the end.

Re:The lesson of politics is that... (3, Insightful)

Arancaytar (966377) | more than 3 years ago | (#34214700)

So they didn't hold the weapon, but they destroyed his life until he ended it. Yeah, I'd say they killed him...

Re:The lesson of politics is that... (1)

Ginger Unicorn (952287) | more than 3 years ago | (#34214746)

The OP said the government "had him killed" which carries the implication that they deliberately intended to kill him. The argument of the post seem to be to point out that the government did not intentionally kill him as some kind of calculcated political assasination, but rather as a side effect of bigotry and/or indifference.

Re:The lesson of politics is that... (2, Insightful)

mysidia (191772) | more than 3 years ago | (#34215166)

but rather as a side effect of bigotry and/or indifference.

In other words, gross negligence.

They committed what we would call today a hate crime.

If you have a duty of care, commit gross negligence, and a person dies, you would be heading to jail with charges of manslaughter.

The governments' killing of the man, by causing his own suicide, is no different.

They knew or should have known, the ramifications of horome therapy, before forcing anyone into it.

Even when punishing criminals, the government has a duty to not cause them to die or to permanently cause them to want to die.

Re:The lesson of politics is that... (1)

Ginger Unicorn (952287) | more than 3 years ago | (#34229616)

Couldn't agree more, but that's not relevant to the point I'm making. Doing something to someone in order to kill them is not the same as doing something to someone and not caring if it kills them or not. Alan Turing was not assassinated.

Re:The lesson of politics is that... (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 3 years ago | (#34215140)

In 1956 the UK government had no reason to kill him, in fact it never did - quite the opposite. Instead they treated a great man with indifference and contempt because of his sexuality.

They killed him by being a culpable, responsible party to his suicide.

Culpable, because the government chose what actions to take.

Responsible, because the actions (therapy) that were taken caused his suicide.

So basically, yes, the government murdered him, as in they caused and were responsible for his death. The fact that he committed the physical act against himself does not relieve the government at all of the fact they are responsible and caused what happened.

Re:The lesson of politics is that... (1)

mister_dave (1613441) | more than 3 years ago | (#34215368)

  1. The courts, and the government, are not the same thing.
  2. You don't know why Mr Turing killed himself. He didn't leave a note.

Re:The lesson of politics is that... (0, Flamebait)

pbhj (607776) | more than 3 years ago | (#34215558)

Couple of points, he was a man in his early 40's - he was arrested when called the police on a teenager he picked up at the cinema and invited back to his house for sex. He knew that he would be arrested for his admission of sex with the young man; this suggests to me it was something more serious than just theft that he was reporting. I'd guess he was being blackmailed by foreign service agents, but it's a guess, it's certain that something doesn't add up in the reports that I've read. If it were a girl of the same age it wouldn't have been illegal, but he would have been shunned by most of society at the time for preying on such a young girl outside of marriage (again my opinion). He was clearly at risk of falling for a "honeytrap". I don't think he would have kept his job had be been caught picking up teen girls.

Second point he was probably bisexual from what I've read of his relationship with the woman he got engaged to. Reports say that he was out as a homosexual when he was working during the war, but his wife spent her time with him at work and outside of work too and yet still didn't know until he told her after they were engaged; so he can't have been overt.

Third, he chose hormone therapy as a "softer option" compared to prison so he wasn't forced, per se, to have hormone therapy. As a rather accomplished chemist the effects of such therapy would probably have been well understood by him. His choice of the hormone therapy suggests that he felt in some way that he needed treatment; maybe he too wasn't happy that he had a proclivity for teenage boys, maybe not.

Re:The lesson of politics is that... (-1, Troll)

LingNoi (1066278) | more than 3 years ago | (#34216384)

He was found poisoned by an apple full of cyanide. The UK government had him killed in case he gave away any secrets to soviet Russia. You don't have to be a genius to put two and two together.

Re:The lesson of politics is that... (1)

RockDoctor (15477) | more than 3 years ago | (#34221224)

If you want to feel worse about it (as a human) then think what might have been if he had lived 25 more years and had enjoyed the appropriate support

He'd have got into a pissing contest with Vint Cerf, and the IP4 address space would have been 64 bits wide.

[Obligatory M$-bashing] Bill Gates would have stuck with his college courses instead of dropping out and writing BASIC interpreters.

World hunger would have been solved in the late '70s.

A little sad at this point... (1)

macshit (157376) | more than 3 years ago | (#34214420)

From the website:

Target: £500,000
Raised so far: £140

I don't know where Christie's gets their prices (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34214424)

Somebody is trying to sell an Apple I for over $100,000 [telegraph.co.uk] right now. The only thing interesting about it is that it includes the original box and a tech-support reply written by Steve Jobs, who when I last checked was neither dead nor especially shy.

And now they're trying to get about $1M for Turing's papers? I guess Steve Jobs can buy them, but I don't know who else is going to drop that kind of money. Hopefully whoever does buy them will donate them to an appropriate museum or library.

Who cares! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34214468)

Send the museum a photocopy of the papers or do something crazy like making an online copy available.

Let someone with more money then sense buy the originals.

If the originals were in the museum they would at best just be locked in a display case and only a few academics would be allowed to handle them.

Re:Who cares! (2, Funny)

houghi (78078) | more than 3 years ago | (#34214540)

A copy? That would be piracy and that would mean a fine much larger fine then anybody can pay. And making copies would take away the initiative for Mr. Turing to write any new papers. So please don't do that.

Re:Who cares! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34215028)

Don't be silly. It would take away the incentive for Mr Turing's estate to write any new papers.

Re:Who cares! (0, Redundant)

mysidia (191772) | more than 3 years ago | (#34215180)

Don't be silly. It would take away the incentive for Mr Turing's estate to release any new papers.

There, fixed it for ya

Save yoyr money (2, Insightful)

gawdonblue (996454) | more than 3 years ago | (#34214488)

Shit happens. It would be nice to have the papers at Bletchley Park but not for £500,000 - there are so many other things that sort of money could do.

Re:Save yoyr money (0, Offtopic)

MrEricSir (398214) | more than 3 years ago | (#34214562)

Hell, for that much money we could make a clone of Alan Turing.

Re:Save yoyr money (2, Informative)

wlad (1171323) | more than 3 years ago | (#34214600)

Indeed, that was my idea as well. Just make digital copies for the public, then make whoever wants buy the originals. As long as the information is preserved for the public, who cares...

appropriation (2, Insightful)

FuckingNickName (1362625) | more than 3 years ago | (#34214576)

His work was funded by the people, built on the knowledge of the people, is part of the heritage of the people and its content belongs to the people. At worst, the "owner" should be required to maintain its condition and make it publicly available, and to provide digital copies which enter the public domain. Just like any item of antiquity or listed building.

Re:appropriation (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#34214840)

His work was funded by the people, built on the knowledge of the people, is part of the heritage of the people and its content belongs to the people. At worst, the "owner" should be required to maintain its condition and make it publicly available, and to provide digital copies which enter the public domain. Just like any item of antiquity or listed building.

All of your work is built on the knowledge of the people. I demand that you place it all on display immediately.

Re:appropriation (1)

FuckingNickName (1362625) | more than 3 years ago | (#34214896)

Erm, all my intellectual work which amounts to more than scraps or drill exercises is publicly available and can for the most part be downloaded. I'm not providing you with links because I maintain anonymity using this account. But I make a point of not hoarding my work, and I've got in more than several arguments with people who want me to do so.

The few times I have tried to build with my hands, I have made such a hash of it that it would probably threaten your safety if you tried to use the fruits of my labour. But I'm hoping it is more energy efficient to burn firewood for heat than the gas transported hundreds/thousands of miles.

Re:appropriation (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#34214934)

It's a ridiculous argument, if anything it should be scanned if it's the only copy and then it can be used for bumwad for all I care. Individual pieces of media are often destroyed regardless of paper or plastic.

Re:appropriation (1)

FuckingNickName (1362625) | more than 3 years ago | (#34215266)

So you are agreeing with the principle and just debating the detail of whether the original hard copy has any value. Now, the latter question is argued in the positive by museums across the world, so I don't think we need to rehash that.

Re:appropriation (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#34215294)

I agree with the principle that the data is priceless, but not that someone should be subjected to expense because of that. Priceless shouldn't mean that you can be expected to pay any price because you own something :p

Re:appropriation (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 3 years ago | (#34215198)

Its content belongs to the people, but not the original physical papers. Physical papers generally belong to whoever possessed them and imprinted things upon them, maybe their employer in some cases --- but definitely not the public.

Turings' work is subject to copyright, therefore won't be public domain for a long time, but the essential content of these things WAS published. Its not like they contain data or text that are not already available through Turings' published works

Possibly wildly inappropriate suggestion (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34214594)

Couldn't they just get a digital copy?

These are NOT worth real money!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34214612)

These are PRINTED, PUBLISHED, ARTICLES, available in many libraries, they are NOT unique handwritten manuscripts!

A few have signatures, of no research value. There are far better uses of £500,000 to promote Turing's work.

manuscripts? (1)

sugarmotor (621907) | more than 3 years ago | (#34214740)

I think reading the papers through the Internet, in a library, or from your own print-out is enough.

I would suggest Alan Turing would feel the same.

(How would you feel about your own writing being auctioned, but easily available otherwise?)

Stephan

Re:manuscripts? (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 3 years ago | (#34215322)

(How would you feel about your own writing being auctioned, but easily available otherwise?)

That depends on who is auctioning them.

If they were being sold by my spouse / kids, because they really needed the money, I would be all for it.

Otherwise, I would rather have it burned than auctioned.

Onoes! (2, Insightful)

SeaFox (739806) | more than 3 years ago | (#34214750)

If the money isn't raised, the papers could disappear into a private archive, never to be seen again."

OR they could be bought by a private collector who could just as easily "indefinitely loan" them to Bletchley Park. Just as many private art collectors have pieces on loan to museums.

Re:Onoes! (1)

multipartmixed (163409) | more than 3 years ago | (#34215396)

> Just as many private art collectors have pieces on loan to museums.

I thought that was so they could avoid insurance premiums and get them cared for properly until they wanted to display them above the television in the breakfast nook.

Re:Onoes! (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 3 years ago | (#34215412)

Makes sense.... not only does the collector retain ownership in that case, but the museum can be responsible for keeping it in pristine condition. The collector looks good to the public because they are being nice and allowing the museum to display the work.

If the collector wants to sell... the museum is also free advertising in regards to the nature of the work, and the fact it exists and might be available for purchase later.

and in other news (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34214780)

The German navy files suit under the DMCA

could be fake (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34214802)

How do we know this is really Turing's work and not, say, an imitation by an advanced AI?

Who cares? (2, Insightful)

t2t10 (1909766) | more than 3 years ago | (#34215188)

What difference does it make what happens to his "original" papers? They have been published and are accessible to all.

With Turing, of all people, one should understand that it is the information contained in those papers that matters--which is public--not the physical artifact.

Misleading headline (2, Informative)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 3 years ago | (#34215658)

The headline is, as usual, misleading. These aren't Turing's papers (which usually means personal papers and notes belonging to the person named), they're copies of [professional] papers he wrote.

Oh really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34217090)

"in the building where Turing performed his war-winning work and birthed the concept of a modern 'universal computer.'"

Given that his paper, On Computable Numbers, was published in 1937, well before WWI started, I'm wondering exactly where this building might be...

Re:Oh really? (1)

korean.ian (1264578) | more than 3 years ago | (#34217530)

"in the building where Turing performed his war-winning work and birthed the concept of a modern 'universal computer.'"

Given that his paper, On Computable Numbers, was published in 1937, well before WWI started, I'm wondering exactly where this building might be...

It seems you're thinking of an alternate universe... :)

Here's what the article should say: (1)

rcharbon (123915) | more than 3 years ago | (#34221950)

"If the money isn't raised, Christie's may not get the enormous commission they're hoping for."
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