Codebreaker - Alan Turing's Life and Legacy

Codebreaker – Alan Turing’s life and legacy will examine the achievements of the man whose influence on computer science is still felt today and whose wartime codebreaking helped take years off the length of World War II.

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A new exhibition celebrating the life of pioneering computer scientist Alan Turing will open on 21 June 2012 at the Science Museum.


Codebreaker – Alan Turing’s life and legacy will examine the achievements of the man whose influence on computer science is still felt today and whose wartime codebreaking helped take years off the length of World War II.


The Science Museum will present the most extensive collection of Turing artefacts assembled under one roof, including machines he devised and devices that influenced him and his colleagues. Together, the collection will offer an indisputable argument for Turing’s enduring global legacy.


At the heart of the exhibition will be



  • the Pilot ACE computer - one of the star items since it embodies Turing’s ideas for a universal programmable computer. It was the fastest computer in the world at the time and is a forerunner of today’s machines.

  • Featured alongside will be a special simulator of the Pilot ACE, made in 1950 to present the computer’s capabilities to the public.

  • Other key exhibits include a piece of Comet jet fuselage wreckage analysed with the aid of Pilot ACE in 1954 following a series of crashes. The work by Pilot ACE eventually helped to reveal the source of the problem, leading to changes in aeroplane design.

  • Other highlights include German military Enigma machines.

  • Few remaining parts of the huge, revolutionary electromechanical ‘bombe’ machines devised by Turing during World War II to crack codes.


During the War, Turing designed the ‘bombes’ to attempt to deal with the proliferation of enemy messages and therefore pinpoint the location of German U-Boat submarines. Eventually, over 200 were built, each weighing a ton and operating constantly at Bletchley Park and other secret sites in the UK. The exhibition also includes a working aid used to break Enigma, which has never been displayed outside of GCHQ.


Codebreaker – Alan Turing’s life and legacy will give a fully-rounded picture of the man known at the secret government intelligence site Bletchley Park as ‘the Prof’. It will explore Turing’s work on artificial intelligence and his morphogenesis work, cut short by his untimely death in 1954 following a conviction for ‘gross indecency’ and an enforced period of medical ‘treatment’ with female hormones.


Science Museum exhibition curator, David Rooney, said “The exhibition is an opportunity to present the remarkable work of a man whose influence reaches into perhaps the most widespread and increasingly popular public pastime of the 21st century, the use of the personal computing device, yet whose name is probably unfamiliar to the vast majority of people.


Turing’s scientific creations and wartime heroics are beyond question but we are able to show a more complete portrait of the man who, far from being the cold, insular lone genius of popular belief, can be seen as a convivial character with many endearing qualities.


Turing, who had undoubted eccentricities and a particular intensity of thought, debated complicated theories with colleagues while running Olympic-standard races and was regarded with affection by colleagues throughout his career. His treatment at the end of his life is a source of national shame.”

Science Museum

Exhibition Road
London Greater London United Kingdom SW7 2DD

Open daily

Open from 10.00 - 18.00 every day except 24 to 26 December.
Last entry 17.15.