Rare Alan Turing papers bought by Bletchley Park Trust

A collection of Max Newman's hand-annotated offprints from sixteen of Alan Turing's eighteen books have been purchased by the Bletchley Park Trust with help from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and a USD100,000 donation from Google. The papers were up for auction, and had they not been bought by the Trust, they likely would have gone to a private collection. They will now be available to the public at the wonderful Bletchley Park museum.
The collection of articles belonged to Professor Max Newman, Turing's friend and fellow Bletchley Park codebreaking genius. It includes offprints of sixteen of Turing's eighteen published works including his momentous paper 'On Computable Numbers' A limited number of the offprints would have been produced at the time and Turing's gifting them to Newman bears testimony to their unique relationship. The set includes articles which have been annotated by Newman, along with Max Newman's name inscribed in pencil in Turing's hand. Accompanying the set of offprints is the Newman household visitors' book with several signatures of Turing, that of Turing's mother and, of special significance to Bletchley Park, signatures of other wartime codebreaking giants.

The Turing-Newman Collaboration Collection is particularly rare, important and valuable as very few physical traces of Turing's work or personal belongings still exist. Most of the wartime records at Bletchley Park were destroyed after the war, while Turing himself kept little of his work and very few personal belongings...

Turing's close relationship with Newman was crucial to the historic contribution Turing made, starting with Newman's encouragement to investigate 'mechanical processes' and his help in securing Turing a fellowship at Princeton to continue his research. In 1952 at a time when homosexuality was illegal in the UK, Turing was convicted of having a sexual relationship with another man. Turing was sentenced to a hormone treatment that amounted to chemical castration. The conviction robbed him of his security clearance for GCHQ, for which he still worked, and made him the target for surveillance at the start of the cold war. Having made one of the most outstanding contributions of the twentieth century, he died after eating an apple laced with cyanide.



  1. In other news hero who saved the UK and helped end WW-II slowly tortured to death by his grateful nations government.

    1. @rebdav,

      Yeah, that’s pretty much par for the course. Governments, companies, hell even a few relationships I’ve been through.

      A significant portion of people are selfish, sociopathic creatures that care only for themselves and will suck others dry for all they can, when they need them. Once the victim has lost their use, they are cast aside, or worse as was Turing, persecuted and ultimately drive to death.

      It’s stories like Turing’s that keep me fighting the good fight, despite that it often makes my life harder( it certainly limits your career choices, let me tell you ). Not only do I believe it is the arch-imperative, but it also makes me feel I am doing something to not have let the Turings of the world die in vain.

    2. Well, the nation didn’t know they had anything to be grateful for at the time. His work during the war was classified until the mid seventies, and even his family and his closest friends believed he was a coward that had secured himself a desk job to avoid the battlefield.

      Not that I condone chemical castration of homosexuals, of course.

  2. Good timing. I’m re-reading ‘Cryptonomicon’ (for the third time) and jus got to the part about Turing’s bicycle.

  3. Small correction: The offprints are journal articles published individually, rather than excerpts from books.

  4. This story is a little strange. With all due respect to Alan Turing (and he is due A LOT of it), this purchase is basically autograph-collecting. In the pre-photocopy, pre-pdf era, when one published an article in a scientific journal (and Rumpole is correct, these are articles, not books), one would receive (free, or by purchasing them) printed copies of the article. These would be distributed to anyone who asked for one. We were all equipped with pre-printed postcards for the purpose of requesting reprints (“Dear _____, I would appreciate a reprint of your article _____ published in ______ ….”). Turing and Newman may have been close colleagues, but giving reprints to someone is not at all unusual, nor evidence of particularly close relationship.

    So there is nothing particularly special about these reprints other than their provenance: notes scribbled on them by Newman, and Newman’s name written by Turing. Copies of the original journal publications of at least some of these seem to be available on the used book market for a few hundreds to a thousand dollars. The articles themselves, of course, are readily available on the web.

    There’s nothing wrong with autograph collecting, but the way the whole purchase is presented just seems a little strange.

    But the work was brilliant. Did I mention all due respect to Turing? Yes.

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