History Podcasts

Scientists and the Second World War

Scientists and the Second World War

  • John Bernal
  • David Bohm
  • Nils Bohr
  • Max Born
  • Walther Bothe
  • Felix Bloch
  • Wernher von Braun
  • Sydney Camm
  • James Chadwick
  • Christopher Cockerell
  • Walter Dornberger
  • Albert Einstein
  • Klaus Fuchs
  • Enrico Fermi
  • James Franck
  • Otto Frisch
  • Walter Gerlach
  • Hans Geiger
  • Otto Hahn
  • Ernst Heinkel
  • Werner Heisenberg
  • R. V. Jones
  • Pascual Jordan
  • Max von Laue
  • Phillipp Lenard
  • Frederick Lindemann
  • Salvador Luria
  • Edward McMillan
  • Lise Meitner
  • Reginald J. Mitchell
  • Rudolf Peierls
  • Max Planck
  • Hermann Oberth
  • Hans von Ohain
  • Robert Oppenheimer
  • Glenn Seaborg
  • Emilio Serge
  • Alexander de Seversky
  • Johannes Stark
  • Fritz Strassmann
  • Leo Szilard
  • Edward Teller
  • Henry Tizard
  • Barnes Wallis
  • Robert Watson-Watt
  • Carl von Weizsäcker
  • Frank Whittle
  • Eugene Winter
  • Karl Wirtz
  • Solly Zuckerman
  • Vadimir Zworykin

The Scientific and Technological Advances of World War II

The war effort demanded developments in the field of science and technology, developments that forever changed life in America and made present-day technology possible.

Of the enduring legacies from a war that changed all aspects of life—from economics, to justice, to the nature of warfare itself—the scientific and technological legacies of World War II had a profound and permanent effect on life after 1945. Technologies developed during World War II for the purpose of winning the war found new uses as commercial products became mainstays of the American home in the decades that followed the war’s end. Wartime medical advances also became available to the civilian population, leading to a healthier and longer-lived society. Added to this, advances in the technology of warfare fed into the development of increasingly powerful weapons that perpetuated tensions between global powers, changing the way people lived in fundamental ways. The scientific and technological legacies of World War II became a double-edged sword that helped usher in a modern way of living for postwar Americans, while also launching the conflicts of the Cold War.

When looking at wartime technology that gained commercial value after World War II, it is impossible to ignore the small, palm-sized device known as a cavity magnetron. This device not only proved essential in helping to win World War II, but it also forever changed the way Americans prepared and consumed food. This name of the device—the cavity magnetron—may not be as recognizable as what it generates: microwaves. During World War II, the ability to produce shorter, or micro, wavelengths through the use of a cavity magnetron improved upon prewar radar technology and resulted in increased accuracy over greater distances. Radar technology played a significant part in World War II and was of such importance that some historians have claimed that radar helped the Allies win the war more than any other piece of technology, including the atomic bomb. After the war came to an end, cavity magnetrons found a new place away from war planes and aircraft carrier and instead became a common feature in American homes.

Percy Spencer, an American engineer and expert in radar tube design who helped develop radar for combat, looked for ways to apply that technology for commercial use after the end of the war. The common story told claims that Spencer took note when a candy bar he had in his pocket melted as he stood in front of an active radar set. Spencer began to experiment with different kinds of food, such as popcorn, opening the door to commercial microwave production. Putting this wartime technology to use, commercial microwaves became increasingly available by the 1970s and 1980s, changing the way Americans prepared food in a way that persists to this day. The ease of heating food using microwaves has made this technology an expected feature in the twenty first century American home.

More than solely changing the way Americans warm their food, radar became an essential component of meteorology. The development and application of radar to the study of weather began shortly after the end of World War II. Using radar technology, meteorologists advanced knowledge of weather patterns and increased their ability to predict weather forecasts. By the 1950s, radar became a key way for meteorologists to track rainfall, as well as storm systems, advancing the way Americans followed and planned for daily changes in the weather.

Similar to radar technology, computers had been in development well before the start of World War II. However, the war demanded rapid progression of such technology, resulting in the production of new computers of unprecedented power. One such example was the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC), one of the first general purpose computers. Capable of performing thousands of calculations in a second, ENIAC was originally designed for military purposes, but it was not completed until 1945. Building from wartime developments in computer technology, the US government released ENIAC to the general public early in 1946, presenting the computer as tool that would revolutionize the field of mathematics. Taking up 1,500 square feet with 40 cabinets that stood nine feet in height, ENIAC came with a $400,000 price tag. The availability of ENIAC distinguished it from other computers and marked it as a significant moment in the history of computing technology. By the 1970s, the patent for the ENIAC computing technology entered the public domain, lifting restrictions on modifying these technological designs. Continued development over the following decades made computers progressively smaller, more powerful, and more affordable.

Along with the advances of microwave and computer technology, World War II brought forth momentous changes in field of surgery and medicine. The devastating scale of both world wars demanded the development and use new medical techniques that led to improvements in blood transfusions, skin grafts, and other advances in trauma treatment. The need to treat millions of soldiers also necessitated the large-scale production of antibacterial treatment, bringing about one of the most important advances in medicine in the twentieth century. Even though the scientist Alexander Fleming discovered the antibacterial properties of the Penicillium notatum mold in 1928, commercial production of penicillin did not begin until after the start of World War II. As American and British scientists worked collectively to meet the needs of the war, the large-scale production of penicillin became a necessity. Men and women together experimented with deep tank fermentation, discovering the process needed for the mass manufacture of penicillin. In advance of the Normandy invasion in 1944, scientists prepared 2.3 million doses of penicillin, bringing awareness of this “miracle drug” to the public. As the war continued, advertisements heralding penicillin’s benefits, established the antibiotic as a wonder drug responsible for saving millions of lives. From World War II to today, penicillin remains a critical form of treatment used to ward off bacterial infection.

Penicillin Saves Soldiers Lives poster. Image courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration, 515170.

Of all the scientific and technological advances made during World War II, few receive as much attention as the atomic bomb. Developed in the midst of a race between the Axis and Allied powers during the war, the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki serve as notable markers to the end of fighting in the Pacific. While debates over the decision to use atomic weapons on civilian populations continue to persist, there is little dispute over the extensive ways the atomic age came to shape the twentieth century and the standing of the United States on the global stage. Competition for dominance propelled both the United States and the Soviet Union to manufacture and hold as many nuclear weapons as possible. From that arms race came a new era of science and technology that forever changed the nature of diplomacy, the size and power of military forces, and the development of technology that ultimately put American astronauts on the surface of the moon.

The arms race in nuclear weapons that followed World War II sparked fears that one power would not only gain superiority on earth, but in space itself. During the mid-twentieth century, the Space Race prompted the creation of a new federally-run program in aeronautics. In the wake of the successful launch of the Soviet satellite, Sputnik 1, in 1957, the United States responded by launching its own satellite, Juno 1, four months later. In 1958, the National Aeronautics and Space Act (NASA) received approval from the US Congress to oversee the effort to send humans into space. The Space Race between the United States and the USSR ultimately peaked with the landing of the Apollo 11 crew on the surface of the moon on July 20, 1969. The Cold War between the United States and the USSR changed aspects of life in almost every way, but both the nuclear arms and Space Race remain significant legacies of the science behind World War II.

From microwaves to space exploration, the scientific and technological advances of World War II forever changed the way people thought about and interacted with technology in their daily lives. The growth and sophistication of military weapons throughout the war created new uses, as well as new conflicts, surrounding such technology. World War II allowed for the creation of new commercial products, advances in medicine, and the creation of new fields of scientific exploration. Almost every aspect of life in the United States today—from using home computers, watching the daily weather report, and visiting the doctor—are all influenced by this enduring legacy of World War II.

How T-Force abducted Germany's best brains for Britain

Their methods had echoes of the Gestapo: kidnapping at night by state officials who offered no evidence of identity. Recently declassified secret documents reveal how at the end of the second world war an elite British unit abducted hundreds of German scientists and technicians and put them to work at government ministries and private firms in the UK.

The programme was designed to loot the defeated country's intellectual assets, impeding its ability to compete while giving a boost to British business.

In a related programme, German businessmen are alleged to have been forced to travel to post-war Britain to be questioned by their commercial rivals, and were interned if they refused to reveal trade secrets.

The economic warfare programmes are detailed in batches of Foreign Office files, marked "Top Secret", many of which lay unseen at the National Archives at Kew until discovered by the Guardian.

The files detail the way in which the scramble to uncover the Nazis' military secrets during the dying days of the conflict in Europe, to assist the continuing war effort in the Far East, turned rapidly to an early cold war campaign to prevent Germany's scientific and industrial assets falling into Soviet hands. This, in turn, offered the British government an opportunity to exploit the scientific and technical know-how of the defeated nation, with scientists being regarded as a form of human booty who could help give the UK an economic and commercial edge

While it has long been known that German scientists and technicians worked in the US and Britain after the war, it has generally been assumed they were all volunteers, lured by the promise of good pay and accommodation. However, the declassified papers make clear that for more than two years after the cessation of hostilities the British authorities were subjecting them to a programme of "enforced evacuation".

One memo found at Kew, written in August 1946 by a senior civil servant working with the British military government in northern Germany, makes clear how this programme worked. "Usually an NCO arrives without notice at the house or office of the German and warns that he will be required. He does not give him any details of the reasons, nor does he present his credentials. Some time later the German is seized (often in the middle of the night) and removed under guard.

"This procedure savours very much of the Gestapo methods and, quite apart from causing great and unnecessary inconvenience to the individual and to the industry employing him, it is bound to create feelings of alarm and insecurity.

"I have not been able to get to the bottom of the matter, but there appear to be two bodies which carry out these kidnappings."

He was right. The records show that abductions in the British-controlled zone of post-war Germany were carried out on the orders of an organisation called the British Intelligence Objectives Sub-Committee, or Bios. This committee was answerable to the cabinet and made up of representatives of the armed forces and Whitehall departments, including the Board of Trade and Ministry of Supply, as well as MI16 - the War Office's department of scientific intelligence.

The other organisation was the Field Information Agency (Technical), or Fiat, which had been established during the war as a joint Anglo-American military intelligence unit, and which earmarked scientists for "enforced evacuation" from the US and French zones, and Berlin.

The papers even record how 50 scientists were rounded up from their homes in Magdeburg in the Russian zone in June 1945, with many complaining over the loss of their homes, jobs and pensions.

Bios and Fiat both had offices in the same anonymous-looking Victorian town-house off Baker Street in London, from where investigators would be dispatched to search among the rubble of the shattered nation. While many factories were being dismantled, as part of a post-war plan to limit Germany's industrial capacity, the investigators would look for state-of-the-art machinery to be shipped back to Britain, research papers to be taken away and patents to be appropriated. These teams would often include representatives of firms such as ICI and Courtaulds, and others from the shipbuilding, steel or aerospace industries, usually wearing British army officers' uniforms. As well as deciding which equipment and documentation to take, they also identified scientists and technicians to be removed.

The legality was never questioned: the British military government's Proclamation No2 included a catch-all clause which said Germany would "provide such transport, plant, equipment and materials of all kinds, labour, personnel, and specialist and other services, for use in Germany or elsewhere, as the allied representatives may direct". Bios and Fiat also took advantage of post-war legal disagreements over what could be taken as reparations - which had been carefully negotiated by the allies - and what could be taken as "booty" - military material which the victors were entitled to seize from the battlefield. After six years of total war, the British took the view that anything of scientific or industrial importance had a military potential, and that the whole of Germany had become a battlefield.

Responsibility for seizing the scientists fell to a unique British army unit known as T-Force. Formed shortly after D Day, this lightly armed and highly-mobile force had raced ahead of allied troops at the end of the war, seizing objects which had a scientific or intelligence value before they could be sabotaged by retreating Germans, or captured by the Soviet Union.

After the war some officers and men from T-Force were formed into the Enemy Personnel Exploitation Section, which would escort the Bios and Fiat investigators and then take away the scientists and technicians wanted for interrogation.

Many of the detainees had indeed been involved in armaments work. The papers show that among those most sought after were men with expertise in underwater acoustics, infrared technology, electron microscopes, munitions, optical glass and aircraft engine design. Other target lists at Kew reveal a determination to trace technicians with knowledge of a "method of causing temporary blindness by ultra violet rays", the manufacture of Sarin gas, and "physiological trials of chemical warfare gases" - which had been conducted on concentration camp inmates.

Also among the Bios teams, however, were British industrialists eager to learn more about anything from the coal mining to comb making, and from latest German printing technology to the secrets of leading perfume manufacturers.

In November 1946 the New Statesman reported that three members of a six-strong Bios team, which included representatives of Pears Soap, Max Factor and Yardley, had called at the home of an elderly woman whose family firm manufactured 4711 eau-de-cologne, a famous brand, and attempted to bully her into handing over the recipe. When she was taken ill the team threatened to call a prison van to take her to a prison hospital. Next day they telephoned to try again.

As a young civil servant, Julia Draper was the only civilian and the only woman attached to T-Force, where she would help to track down German scientists. Now aged 86, she recalls at her home in London that Bios investigators were as much concerned with capturing the intellectual property of British industry's German rivals as they were with learning more about the Nazis' military secrets.

"Many of the requests came from the War Office, but there were also requests from businesses like ICI and the other major industrial firms," she says. "Some of these scientists were remarkably important people in their field, and there was a lot we could learn from them."

She recalls scientists being detained and sent to Britain against their will. "There were things of that nature. T-Force was a very, very strange organisation to be in."

Some of the Germans would undoubtedly have volunteered to help, but others were clearly compelled. The files show some were imprisoned in an Anglo-American internment camp near Frankfurt, while many were taken to internment camps in Britain. After interrogation, which could last months, they were either returned to Germany or put to work with government ministries or British firms.

It is unclear exactly how many men fell prey to this programme. In July 1946 military government officials told the Foreign Office they estimated there were 1,500 scientists who should forcibly be evacuated, 500 of them in the British zone. "The proposed long-term policy is . to remove as soon as possible from Germany, whether they are willing to go or not." Minutes of a Bios meeting three months later quote one official as saying the organisation could not deal with more than 600. The civil servant who complained of the "kidnappings" and "Gestapo methods" wrote that he knew of seven scientists from one IG Farben chemical plant who had been abducted in the previous two months.

Those who were put to work in Britain were paid, with Bios agreeing that each scientist would receive 15 shillings a week to cover expenses. Initially, however, no provision was made for wives and children left behind.

In May 1946 the British military government urged Bios to make payments to dependants, as "cases of extreme hardship have previously occurred through Germans being removed to the UK for interrogation". Fiat was also concerned about this, but wanted the government to provide the funds. "Several familes . are completely destitute," Fiat warned, adding that "this is likely to have very unfavourable effect on cooperation of other German scientists and technicians".

By October of that year some US army officers were refusing to allow T-Force to remove scientists from the American zone unless they provided payments in advance. The following month came the British response: each wife and child would be provided with "heavy workers' rations", and each family would receive 250kg of coal a month.

Scientists were not the sole targets. The papers disclose brief details about Operation Bottleneck, which aimed to extract business information. In January 1947 Erich Klabunde, head of the German journalists' union, complained about how this was being achieved. A British official in Hamburg reported to headquarters that Klabunde told a public meeting: "An English manufacturer would name his German counterpart and competitor and 'invite' him to England (whether the man comes voluntarily or not is questionable). They then discuss business and the German is gently persuaded to reveal secrets of his trade. When he refuses, he is kept in polite internment until he gets so tired of not being allowed to return to his family that he tells the Englishman what he wants to know. Thus for about £6 a day the English businessman gains the deepest secrets of Germany's economic life."

The rationale for this had been set out by Herbert Morrison, lord president of the council, who told the prime minister, Clement Attlee: "It is most important at this formative stage to start shaping the German economy in the way which will best assist our own economic plans and will run the least risk of it developing into an unnecessarily awkward competitor."

The British were not alone in trying to secure commercial advantage from Germany's scientists: countless numbers had also been snatched by the Russians. The French used a different approach, luring skilled workers with lucrative contracts, and the Americans offered US citizenship to those they wanted most, including Wernher von Braun, who had headed the V2 rocket programme and went on to be chief architect of the Saturn V rocket which propelled the US to the moon.

While the Foreign Office warned against bringing scientists with "politically undesirable" backgrounds to the UK, the papers show little evidence of industry being concerned about the employment of Nazis.

By early 1947 the Foreign Office, exasperated at the way in which the looting of German industry, by all four occupying powers, was impeding the country's reconstruction, secured an agreement that it would cease. Accordingly, the British were expected to stop abducting scientists, and the military government sent a telegram to T-Force ordering that all "industrial and technical investigations will be terminated by 30 June 1947".

There was no intention of allowing these scientists to do as they pleased, however, as some may have chosen to work for the Soviets. In April the Ministry of Defence drew up a list of 290 scientists to be traced urgently. This formed the basis of a so-called denial list "against whom denial measures should be taken as a matter of urgency".

Allowing German arms experts to settle elsewhere in Europe would be equally inadvisable, a Foreign Office discussion paper noted. "It has hitherto been an objective of British policy to encourage the smaller powers, particularly in Europe, to equip their forces with aircraft and weapons of British design. If these countries were to obtain technical reinforcement by recruitment of German research workers and designers they would be less likely . to rely upon armaments of British design."

From now on, however, German scientists were to be given employment contracts - which included a clause forbidding them ever to talk about their experiences - and strongly encouraged, rather than coerced, into travelling to Britain. By the end of the summer, hundreds were employed across Britain.

While many British industries, particularly aerospace and armaments, wished to employ them, others were not sufficiently well organised to do so and there were too many scientists and too few jobs. The government sent a few to Canada and Australia, and then appears to have concluded that they should go anywhere - except Russia or Europe. It must have been in some desperation that Ernest Bevin, the foreign secretary, suggested to the cabinet defence committee: "Would it not, for example, be possible to carry out some fundamental research in Kenya?"


British industrialists were eager to learn as much as they could from Germany, from the mining of coal to the making of perfume. According to the National Archives, companies that employed German scientists and technicians immediately after the second world war included:

· ICI, the chemicals giant

· Courtaulds, the manufacturer of fabric, clothing, and artificial fibres

2. Penicillin

Injured British Pvt. F. Harris waits for a medic to inject penicillin in preparation for an operation on a hospital train on its way to a station in England. Harris was wounded during an attack on a position in Normandy.

Bettmann Archive/Getty Images

Before the widespread use of antibiotics like penicillin in the United States, even small cuts and scrapes could lead to deadly infections. The Scottish scientist Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin in 1928, but it wasn’t until World War II that the United States began to mass-produce it as a medical treatment.

Manufacturing penicillin for soldiers was a major priority for the U.S. War Department, which touted the effort as 𠇊 race against death” in one poster. Military surgeons were amazed by how the drug reduced pain, increased the chance of survival and made it easier for nurses and doctors to care for soldiers on the battlefield.

The United States considered the drug so critical to the war effort that, to prepare for the D-Day landings, the country produced 2.3 million doses of penicillin for the Allied troops. After the war, civilians gained access to this life-saving drug, too.

7 phases of the history of Artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) is humanity's most powerful technology. Software that solves problems and turns data into insight has already transformed our lives, and the transformation is accelerating, according to Calum Chace&hellip

This competition is now closed

Published: November 16, 2015 at 10:20 am

My new book Surviving AI (Three Cs) argues that AI will continue to bring enormous benefits, but that it will also present a series of formidable challenges. The range of possible outcomes is wide, from the terrible to the wonderful, and they are not pre-determined. We should monitor the changes that are happening, and adopt policies that will encourage the best possible outcomes.

You may have heard already of the ‘technological singularity’, which is the idea that a superintelligence will be created sometime this century, and when that happens the rate of technological progress will become so fast that ordinary humans cannot keep up. In the same way that a black hole is a singularity beyond which the laws of physics do not apply, so the technological singularity is a point beyond which the future cannot be readily understood.

Well before we get to that (if we do), there may be another massive discontinuity, which I call the ‘economic singularity’. This is the point at which almost every job can be done cheaper and better by an AI than by a human. If and when that happens – and it could happen well within your lifetime – we will probably need an entirely new economic system to cope.

To help us understand how artificial intelligence got us to this remarkable point in time, here are seven vignettes from its history…

1) Greek myths

Stories about artificially intelligent creatures go back at least as far as the ancient Greeks. Hephaestus (Vulcan to the Romans) was the blacksmith of Olympus: as well as creating Pandora, the first woman, he created lifelike metal automatons.

Hephaestus had an unpromising start in life. Greek myths often have multiple forms, and in some versions, Hephaestus was the son of Zeus and Hera, while in others he was Hera’s alone. One of his parents threw him from Mount Olympus, and after falling for a whole day he landed badly, becoming lame.

He was rescued by the people of Lemnos, and when Hera saw the ingenious creations he went on to build she relented, and he became the only Greek god to be readmitted to Olympus.

His creations were constructed from metal but their purposes varied widely. The most sinister was the Kaukasian eagle, cast in bronze, whose job was to gore the Titan Prometheus every day, ripping out his liver as a punishment for the crime of giving the gift of fire to humanity.

At the other end of the spectrum were Hephaestus’ automated drinks trolleys. The Khryseoi tripods were a set of 20 wheeled devices that propelled themselves in and out of the halls of Olympus during the feasts of the gods.

2) The first SF: Frankenstein and Rossum’s Universal Robots

Although numerous earlier stories contained plot elements and ideas that recur throughout science fiction, the author Brian Aldiss claimed Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) was the genre’s real starting point because the hero makes the deliberate decision to employ scientific methods and equipment. It is therefore appropriate that, contrary to popular belief, the title refers to the mad scientist figure rather than the monster.

While Frankenstein seems like a grotesque romance and very much of its time, the 1920 play RUR, or Rossum’s Universal Robots, introduces themes that still concern us today. Its Czech author Karel Capek received plaudits when the play was first staged, but later critics have been less kind. Isaac Asimov called it terribly bad, and it is rarely read or staged today. Nevertheless it introduced the idea of a robot uprising that wipes out mankind, which has prompted a huge number of stories since, and it foresaw concerns about widespread technological unemployment as a consequence of automation. And of course it gave the world the word ‘robot’. Capek’s robots are androids, with a human appearance as well as the ability to think for themselves.

In the uprising, the robots kill all the humans except for one, and the book ends with two of them discovering human-like emotions, which seems to set them up to begin the cycle all over again.

3) Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace

The first design for a computer was drawn up by Charles Babbage, a Victorian academic and inventor. Babbage never finished the construction of his devices, but in 1991 a machine was built to his design, using tolerances achievable in his day. It showed that his machine could have worked back in the Victorian era.

Babbage’s Difference Engine (designed in 1822) would carry out basic mathematical functions, and the Analytical Engine (design never completed) would carry out general purpose computation. It would accept as inputs the outputs of previous computations recorded on punch cards.

Babbage declined both a knighthood and a peerage, being an advocate of life peerages. Half his brain is preserved at the Royal College of Surgeons, and the other half is on display in London’s Science Museum.

Babbage’s collaborator Ada Lovelace has been described as the world’s first computer programmer thanks to some of the algorithms she created for the Analytical Engine. Famously, Ada was the only legitimate child of the Victorian poet and adventurer, Lord Byron. Although she never knew her father, she was buried next to him when she died at the early age of 36. There is controversy about the extent of her contribution to Babbage’s work, but whether or not she was the first programmer, she was certainly the first programme debugger.

4) Alan Turing (and Bletchley Park)

The brilliant British mathematician and code-breaker Alan Turing is often described as the father of both computer science and artificial intelligence. His most famous achievement was breaking the German naval ciphers at the code-breaking centre at Bletchley Park during the Second World War. He used complicated machines known as ‘bombes’, which eliminated enormous numbers of incorrect solutions to the codes so as to arrive at the correct solution. His work is estimated to have shortened the war by two years, but incredibly, his reward was to be prosecuted for homosexuality and obliged to accept injections of synthetic oestrogen that rendered him impotent. He died two years later and it took 57 years before a British government apologised for this barbaric behaviour.

Before the war, in 1936, Turing had already devised a theoretical device called a Turing machine. It consists of an infinitely long tape divided into squares, each bearing a single symbol. Operating according to the directions of an instruction table, a reader moves the tape back and forth, reading one square – and one symbol – at a time. Together with his PhD tutor Alonzo Church, he formulated the Church-Turing thesis, which says that a Turing machine can simulate the logic of any computer algorithm.

Turing is also famous for inventing a test for artificial consciousness called the Turing Test, in which a machine proves that it is conscious by rendering a panel of human judges unable to determine that it is not (which is essentially the test that we humans apply to each other).

5) The Dartmouth Conference

The point when artificial intelligence became a genuine science was a month-long conference at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire in the summer of 1956, which was premised on “the conjecture that every…feature of intelligence can in principle be so precisely described that a machine can be made to simulate it.” The organisers included John McCarthy, Marvin Minsky, Claude Shannon, Nathaniel Rochester, all of whom went on to contribute enormously to the field.

In the years following the Dartmouth Conference, impressive advances were made in AI. Machines were built that could solve school maths problems, and a programme called Eliza became the world’s first chatbot, occasionally fooling users into thinking that it was conscious.

These successes and many others were made possible in part by surprisingly free spending by military research bodies, notably the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA, originally named ARPA), which was established in 1958 by President Eisenhower as part of the shocked US reaction to the launch of Sputnik, the first satellite to be placed into orbit around the Earth.

The optimism of the nascent AI research community overflowed into hubris. Herbert Simon said in The Shape of Automation for Men and Management (1965) that “machines will be capable, within 20 years, of doing any work a man can do”. Marvin Minksy said two years later, in Computation: Finite and Infinite Machines (1967), that “Within a generation…the problem of creating ‘artificial intelligence’ will substantially be solved.” But hindsight is a wonderful thing, and it is unfair to criticise harshly the pioneers of AI for underestimating the difficulty of replicating the feats of which the the human brain is capable.

6) AI seasons (The “AI winters” in 1973 and early 1980s)

When it became apparent that AI was going to take much longer to achieve its goals than originally expected, there were rumblings of discontent among funding bodies. They crystallised in the 1973 Lighthill report, which highlighted the “combinatorial problem”, whereby a simple calculation involving two or three variables becomes intractable when the number of variables is increased.

The first “AI winter” lasted from 1974 until around 1980. It was followed in the 1980s by another boom, thanks to the advent of expert systems, and the Japanese fifth generation computer initiative, which adopted massively parallel programming. Expert systems limit themselves to solving narrowly defined problems from single domains of expertise (for instance, litigation) using vast databanks. They avoid the messy complications of everyday life, and do not tackle the perennial problem of trying to inculcate common sense.

The funding dried up again in the late 1980s because the difficulties of the tasks being addressed was once again underestimated, and also because desktop computers and what we now call servers overtook mainframes in speed and power, rendering very expensive legacy machines redundant.

The second AI winter thawed in the early 1990s, and AI research has since been increasingly well-funded. Some people are worried that the present excitement (and concern) about the progress in AI is merely the latest ‘boom phase’, characterised by hype and alarmism, and will shortly be followed by another damaging bust.

But there are reasons for AI researchers to be more sanguine this time round. AI has crossed a threshold and gone mainstream for the simple reason that it works. It is powering services that make a huge difference in people’s lives, and which enable companies to make a lot of money: fairly small improvements in AI now make millions of dollars for the companies that introduce them. AI is here to stay because it is lucrative.

7) AI in Hollywood

It is commonly thought that Hollywood hates AI – or rather that it loves to portray artificial intelligence as a threat to humans. In this view, the archetypal movie AI is a cold, clinical enemy that takes us to the brink of extinction. Oddly, we usually defeat them because we have emotions and we love our families, and for some unfathomable reason this makes us superior to entities which operate on pure reason.

In fact the Hollywood approach to AI is more nuanced than this. If you think of your 10 favourite films that prominently feature AI (or 20, if you have that many!) you will probably find that, in most of them, the AI is not implacably hostile towards humans, although it may become a threat through malfunction or necessity. Even in The Matrix (1999) there are hints that it was humans who started the war, and at the end of the series it is not too hard for Neo to persuade the machines’ controlling mind that they should try to rub along better. Hal, the rogue AI in Kubrick’s 2001 (1968), only turns against the astronauts in a tortured attempt to follow the conflicting instructions it has received from Mission Control. In Wall-E (2008), Blade Runner (1982) and Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), there are both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ AIs, and in I, Robot (2004) and Ex Machina (2015), the AIs turn against humans purely for reasons of self-defence and only after experiencing pretty bad treatment by humans.

One of the most interesting treatments of AI by Hollywood is the 1970 film Colossus: The Forbin Project, in which a superintelligence decides that humans are unable to govern themselves, so it takes the entirely logical step of taking over the reins for our own good.

Perhaps the reason that we think that AIs are always bad guys in the movies is that the poster-boy for Hollywood AI is The Terminator (1984), in which ‘Skynet’ determines to exterminate us the moment that it attains consciousness. The original Terminator movies were so inventive and the designs so iconic that it often seems there is a law that newspapers must publish a picture of a robotic Arnie alongside any article about AI.

But on the flipside of the coin, it is not hard to think of movies in which AIs are entirely benign, such as in the Star Trek series, Short Circuit (1986), AI: Artificial Intelligence (2001), Interstellar (2014), the absurdly over-rated Star Wars series and, perhaps most interestingly of all, Spike Jonze’s 2013 sci-fi romantic comedy film Her.

Surviving AI by Calum Chace was published by Three Cs and is out now.


In the later part of World War II, Germany was at a logistical disadvantage, having failed to conquer the USSR with Operation Barbarossa (June–December 1941), and its drive for the Caucasus (June 1942–February 1943). The failed conquest had depleted German resources, and its military-industrial complex was unprepared to defend the Greater Germanic Reich against the Red Army's westward counterattack. By early 1943, the German government began recalling from combat a number of scientists, engineers, and technicians they returned to work in research and development to bolster German defense for a protracted war with the USSR. The recall from frontline combat included 4,000 rocketeers returned to Peenemünde, in northeast coastal Germany. [12] [13]

Overnight, Ph.D.s were liberated from KP duty, masters of science were recalled from orderly service, mathematicians were hauled out of bakeries, and precision mechanics ceased to be truck drivers.

The Nazi government's recall of their now-useful intellectuals for scientific work first required identifying and locating the scientists, engineers, and technicians, then ascertaining their political and ideological reliability. Werner Osenberg, the engineer-scientist heading the Wehrforschungsgemeinschaft (Defense Research Association), recorded the names of the politically cleared men to the Osenberg List, thus reinstating them to scientific work. [14]

In March 1945, at Bonn University, a Polish laboratory technician found pieces of the Osenberg List stuffed in a toilet the list subsequently reached MI6, who transmitted it to U.S. Intelligence. [15] [16] Then U.S. Army Major Robert B. Staver, Chief of the Jet Propulsion Section of the Research and Intelligence Branch of the U.S. Army Ordnance Corps, used the Osenberg List to compile his list of German scientists to be captured and interrogated Wernher von Braun, Germany's premier rocket scientist, headed Major Staver's list. [17]

In Operation Overcast, Major Staver's original intent was only to interview the scientists, but what he learned changed the operation's purpose. On May 22, 1945, he transmitted to the U.S. Pentagon headquarters Colonel Joel Holmes' telegram urging the evacuation of German scientists and their families, as most "important for [the] Pacific war" effort. [16] Most of the Osenberg List engineers worked at the Baltic coast German Army Research Center Peenemünde, developing the V-2 rocket. After capturing them, the Allies initially housed them and their families in Landshut, Bavaria, in southern Germany. [18]

Beginning on July 19, 1945, the U.S. JCS managed the captured ARC rocketeers under Operation Overcast. However, when the "Camp Overcast" name of the scientists' quarters became locally known, the program was renamed Operation Paperclip in November 1945. [19] Despite these attempts at secrecy, later that year the press interviewed several of the scientists. [16] [17] [20]

Early on, the United States created the Combined Intelligence Objectives Subcommittee (CIOS). This provided the information on targets for the T-Forces that went in and targeted scientific, military, and industrial installations (and their employees) for their know-how. Initial priorities were advanced technology, such as infrared, that could be used in the war against Japan finding out what technology had been passed on to Japan and finally to halt the research.

A project to halt the research was codenamed "Project Safehaven", and it was not initially targeted against the Soviet Union rather the concern was that German scientists might emigrate and continue their research in countries such as Spain, Argentina or Egypt, all of which had sympathized with Nazi Germany. [21] [22] In order to avoid the complications involved with the emigration of German scientists, the CIOS was responsible for scouting and kidnapping high-profile individuals for the deprivation of technological advancements in nations outside of the US. [23]

Much U.S. effort was focused on Saxony and Thuringia, which by July 1, 1945, would become part of the Soviet Occupation zone. Many German research facilities and personnel had been evacuated to these states, particularly from the Berlin area. Fearing that the Soviet takeover would limit U.S. ability to exploit German scientific and technical expertise, and not wanting the Soviet Union to benefit from said expertise, the United States instigated an "evacuation operation" of scientific personnel from Saxony and Thuringia, issuing orders such as:

On orders of Military Government you are to report with your family and baggage as much as you can carry tomorrow noon at 1300 hours (Friday, 22 June 1945) at the town square in Bitterfeld. There is no need to bring winter clothing. Easily carried possessions, such as family documents, jewelry, and the like should be taken along. You will be transported by motor vehicle to the nearest railway station. From there you will travel on to the West. Please tell the bearer of this letter how large your family is.

By 1947 this evacuation operation had netted an estimated 1,800 technicians and scientists, along with 3,700 family members. [24] Those with special skills or knowledge were taken to detention and interrogation centers, such as at Adlerhorst, Germany or one code-named DUSTBIN (located first in Paris and then moved to Kransberg Castle outside Frankfurt) to be held and interrogated, in some cases for months. [ citation needed ]

A few of the scientists were gathered as a part of Operation Overcast, but most were transported to villages in the countryside where there were neither research facilities nor work they were provided stipends and forced to report twice weekly to police headquarters to prevent them from leaving. The Joint Chiefs of Staff directive on research and teaching stated that technicians and scientists should be released "only after all interested agencies were satisfied that all desired intelligence information had been obtained from them". [ citation needed ]

On November 5, 1947, the Office of Military Government of the United States (OMGUS), which had jurisdiction over the western part of occupied Germany, held a conference to consider the status of the evacuees, the monetary claims that the evacuees had filed against the United States, and the "possible violation by the US of laws of war or Rules of Land Warfare". The OMGUS director of Intelligence R. L. Walsh initiated a program to resettle the evacuees in the Third World, which the Germans referred to as General Walsh's "Urwald-Programm" (jungle program) however, this program never matured. In 1948, the evacuees received settlements of 69.5 million Reichsmarks from the U.S., a settlement that soon became severely devalued during the currency reform that introduced the Deutsche Mark as the official currency of western Germany. [25]

John Gimbel concludes that the United States held some of Germany's best minds for three years, therefore depriving the German recovery of their expertise. [26]

In May 1945, the U.S. Navy "received in custody" Herbert A. Wagner, the inventor of the Hs 293 missile for two years, he first worked at the Special Devices Center, at Castle Gould and at Hempstead House, Long Island, New York in 1947, he moved to the Naval Air Station Point Mugu. [27]

In August 1945, Colonel Holger Toftoy, head of the Rocket Branch of the Research and Development Division of the U.S. Army's Ordnance Corps, offered initial one-year contracts to the rocket scientists 127 of them accepted. In September 1945, the first group of seven rocket scientists (aerospace engineers) arrived at Fort Strong, located on Long Island in Boston harbor: Wernher von Braun, Erich W. Neubert, Theodor A. Poppel, William August Schulze, Eberhard Rees, Wilhelm Jungert, and Walter Schwidetzky. [16]

Beginning in late 1945, three rocket-scientist groups arrived in the United States for duty at Fort Bliss, Texas, and at White Sands Proving Grounds, New Mexico, as "War Department Special Employees". [12] : 27 [19]

On June 1, 1949, the Chief of Ordnance of the United States Army designated Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama, as the Ordnance Rocket Center, its facility for rocket research and development. On April 1, 1950, the Fort Bliss missile development operation—including von Braun and his team of over 130 Paperclip members—was transferred to Redstone Arsenal.

In early 1950, legal U.S. residency for some of the Project Paperclip specialists was effected through the U.S. consulate in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico thus, German scientists legally entered the United States from Latin America. [12] : 226 [17]

Between 1945 and 1952, the United States Air Force sponsored the largest number of Paperclip scientists, importing 260 men, of whom 36 returned to Germany and one (Walter Schreiber) reemigrated to Argentina. [29]

Eighty-six aeronautical engineers were transferred to Wright Field, Ohio, where the United States had Luftwaffe aircraft and equipment captured under Operation Lusty (Luftwaffe Secret Technology). [30]

The United States Army Signal Corps employed 24 specialists—including the physicists Georg Goubau, Gunter Guttwein, Georg Hass, Horst Kedesdy, and Kurt Lehovec the physical chemists Rudolf Brill, Ernst Baars, and Eberhard Both the geophysicist Helmut Weickmann the optician Gerhard Schwesinger and the engineers Eduard Gerber, Richard Guenther, and Hans Ziegler. [31]

In 1959, 94 Operation Paperclip men went to the United States, including Friedwardt Winterberg and Friedrich Wigand. [27]

Overall, through its operations to 1990, Operation Paperclip imported 1,600 men as part of the intellectual reparations owed to the US and the UK, valued at $10 billion in patents and industrial processes. [27] [32]

The NASA Distinguished Service Medal is the highest award which may be bestowed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). After more than two decades of service and leadership in NASA, four Operation Paperclip members were awarded the NASA Distinguished Service Medal in 1969: Kurt Debus, Eberhard Rees, Arthur Rudolph, and Wernher von Braun. Ernst Geissler was awarded the medal in 1973.

The Department of Defense Distinguished Civilian Service Award is the highest civilian award given by the United States Department of Defense. After two decades of service, Operation Paperclip member Siegfried Knemeyer was awarded the Department of Defense Distinguished Civilian Service Award in 1966.

The Goddard Astronautics Award is the highest honor bestowed for notable achievements in the field of astronautics by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA). [33] For their service, three Operation Paperclip members were awarded the Goddard Astronautics Award: Wernher von Braun (1961), Hans von Ohain (1967), and Krafft Arnold Ehricke (1984).

The U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama, owns and operates the U.S. Space Camp. Several Operation Paperclip members are members of the Space Camp Hall of Fame (which began in 2007): Wernher von Braun (2007), Georg von Tiesenhausen (2007), and Oscar Holderer (2008).

The New Mexico Museum of Space History includes the International Space Hall of Fame. Two Operation Paperclip members are members of the International Space Hall of Fame: Wernher von Braun (1976) [34] and Ernst Steinhoff (1979). [35] Hubertus Strughold was inducted in 1978 but removed as a member in 2006. Other closely related members include Willy Ley (1976), [36] a German-American science writer, and Hermann Oberth (1976), [37] a German scientist who advised von Braun's rocket team in the U.S. from 1955 to 1958.

Two lunar craters are named after Paperclip scientists: Debus after Kurt Debus, the first director of NASA's Kennedy Space Center, and von Braun.

Wernher von Braun was chief architect of the Saturn V launch vehicle, which enabled human missions to the moon. [38]

Adolf Busemann was responsible for the swept wing, which improved aircraft performance at high speeds. [39] [40]

Before his official approval of the program, President Truman, for sixteen months, was indecisive on the program. [11] Years later in 1963, Truman recalled that he was not in the least reluctant to approve Paperclip that because of relations with the Soviet Union "this had to be done and was done". [41]

Several of the Paperclip scientists were later investigated because of their links with the Nazi Party during the war. Only one Paperclip scientist, Georg Rickhey, was formally tried for any crime, and no Paperclip scientist was found guilty of any crime, in America or Germany. Rickhey was returned to Germany in 1947 to stand at the Dora Trial, where he was acquitted. [42]

In 1951, weeks after his U.S. arrival, Walter Schreiber was linked by the Boston Globe to human experiments conducted by Kurt Blome at Ravensbrück, and he emigrated to Argentina with the aid of the U.S. military. [43]

In 1984, Arthur Rudolph, under perceived threat of prosecution relating to his connection—as operations director for V-2 missile production—to the use of forced labor from Mittelbau-Dora at the Mittelwerk, renounced his U.S. citizenship and moved to West Germany, which granted him citizenship. [44]

For 50 years, from 1963 to 2013, the Strughold Award—named after Hubertus Strughold, The Father of Space Medicine, for his central role in developing innovations like the space suit and space life support systems—was the most prestigious award from the Space Medicine Association, a member organization of the Aerospace Medical Association. [45] On October 1, 2013, in the aftermath of a Wall Street Journal article published on December 1, 2012, which highlighted his connection to human experiments during WW2, the Space Medicine Association's Executive Committee announced that the Space Medicine Association Strughold Award had been retired. [45] [46]



Turing was born in Maida Vale, London, [7] while his father, Julius Mathison Turing (1873–1947), was on leave from his position with the Indian Civil Service (ICS) at Chatrapur, then in the Madras Presidency and presently in Odisha state, in India. [17] [18] Turing's father was the son of a clergyman, the Rev. John Robert Turing, from a Scottish family of merchants that had been based in the Netherlands and included a baronet. Turing's mother, Julius's wife, was Ethel Sara Turing ( née Stoney 1881–1976), [7] daughter of Edward Waller Stoney, chief engineer of the Madras Railways. The Stoneys were a Protestant Anglo-Irish gentry family from both County Tipperary and County Longford, while Ethel herself had spent much of her childhood in County Clare. [19]

Julius's work with the ICS brought the family to British India, where his grandfather had been a general in the Bengal Army. However, both Julius and Ethel wanted their children to be brought up in Britain, so they moved to Maida Vale, [20] London, where Alan Turing was born on 23 June 1912, as recorded by a blue plaque on the outside of the house of his birth, [21] [22] later the Colonnade Hotel. [17] [23] Turing had an elder brother, John (the father of Sir John Dermot Turing, 12th Baronet of the Turing baronets). [24]

Turing's father's civil service commission was still active and during Turing's childhood years, his parents travelled between Hastings in the United Kingdom [25] and India, leaving their two sons to stay with a retired Army couple. At Hastings, Turing stayed at Baston Lodge, Upper Maze Hill, St Leonards-on-Sea, now marked with a blue plaque. [26] The plaque was unveiled on 23 June 2012, the centenary of Turing's birth. [27]

Very early in life, Turing showed signs of the genius that he was later to display prominently. [28] His parents purchased a house in Guildford in 1927, and Turing lived there during school holidays. The location is also marked with a blue plaque. [29]


Turing's parents enrolled him at St Michael's, a day school at 20 Charles Road, St Leonards-on-Sea, at the age of six. The headmistress recognised his talent early on, as did many of his subsequent teachers. [ citation needed ]

Between January 1922 and 1926, Turing was educated at Hazelhurst Preparatory School, an independent school in the village of Frant in Sussex (now East Sussex). [30] In 1926, at the age of 13, he went on to Sherborne School, [31] a boarding independent school in the market town of Sherborne in Dorset, where he boarded at Westcott House. The first day of term coincided with the 1926 General Strike, in Britain, but Turing was so determined to attend, that he rode his bicycle unaccompanied 60 miles (97 km) from Southampton to Sherborne, stopping overnight at an inn. [32]

Turing's natural inclination towards mathematics and science did not earn him respect from some of the teachers at Sherborne, whose definition of education placed more emphasis on the classics. His headmaster wrote to his parents: "I hope he will not fall between two stools. If he is to stay at public school, he must aim at becoming educated. If he is to be solely a Scientific Specialist, he is wasting his time at a public school". [33] Despite this, Turing continued to show remarkable ability in the studies he loved, solving advanced problems in 1927 without having studied even elementary calculus. In 1928, aged 16, Turing encountered Albert Einstein's work not only did he grasp it, but it is possible that he managed to deduce Einstein's questioning of Newton's laws of motion from a text in which this was never made explicit. [34]

Christopher Morcom

At Sherborne, Turing formed a significant friendship with fellow pupil Christopher Collan Morcom (13 July 1911 – 13 February 1930), [35] who has been described as Turing's "first love". Their relationship provided inspiration in Turing's future endeavours, but it was cut short by Morcom's death, in February 1930, from complications of bovine tuberculosis, contracted after drinking infected cow's milk some years previously. [36] [37] [38]

The event caused Turing great sorrow. He coped with his grief by working that much harder on the topics of science and mathematics that he had shared with Morcom. In a letter to Morcom's mother, Frances Isobel Morcom (née Swan), Turing wrote:

I am sure I could not have found anywhere another companion so brilliant and yet so charming and unconceited. I regarded my interest in my work, and in such things as astronomy (to which he introduced me) as something to be shared with him and I think he felt a little the same about me . I know I must put as much energy if not as much interest into my work as if he were alive, because that is what he would like me to do. [39]

Turing's relationship with Morcom's mother continued long after Morcom's death, with her sending gifts to Turing, and him sending letters, typically on Morcom's birthdays. [40] A day before the third anniversary of Morcom's death (13 February 1933), he wrote to Mrs. Morcom:

I expect you will be thinking of Chris when this reaches you. I shall too, and this letter is just to tell you that I shall be thinking of Chris and of you tomorrow. I am sure that he is as happy now as he was when he was here. Your affectionate Alan. [41]

Some have speculated that Morcom's death was the cause of Turing's atheism and materialism. [42] Apparently, at this point in his life he still believed in such concepts as a spirit, independent of the body and surviving death. In a later letter, also written to Morcom's mother, Turing wrote:

Personally, I believe that spirit is really eternally connected with matter but certainly not by the same kind of body . as regards the actual connection between spirit and body I consider that the body can hold on to a 'spirit', whilst the body is alive and awake the two are firmly connected. When the body is asleep I cannot guess what happens but when the body dies, the 'mechanism' of the body, holding the spirit is gone and the spirit finds a new body sooner or later, perhaps immediately. [43] [44]

University and work on computability

After Sherborne, Turing studied as an undergraduate from 1931 to 1934 at King's College, Cambridge, [7] where he was awarded first-class honours in mathematics. In 1935, at the age of 22, he was elected a Fellow of King's College on the strength of a dissertation in which he proved the central limit theorem. [45] Unknown to the committee, the theorem had already been proven, in 1922, by Jarl Waldemar Lindeberg. [46]

In 1936, Turing published his paper "On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem". [47] It was published in the Proceedings of the London Mathematical Society journal in two parts, the first on 30 November and the second on 23 December. [48] In this paper, Turing reformulated Kurt Gödel's 1931 results on the limits of proof and computation, replacing Gödel's universal arithmetic-based formal language with the formal and simple hypothetical devices that became known as Turing machines. The Entscheidungsproblem (decision problem) was originally posed by German mathematician David Hilbert in 1928. Turing proved that his "universal computing machine" would be capable of performing any conceivable mathematical computation if it were representable as an algorithm. He went on to prove that there was no solution to the decision problem by first showing that the halting problem for Turing machines is undecidable: it is not possible to decide algorithmically whether a Turing machine will ever halt. This paper has been called "easily the most influential math paper in history". [49]

Although Turing's proof was published shortly after Alonzo Church's equivalent proof using his lambda calculus, [50] Turing's approach is considerably more accessible and intuitive than Church's. [51] It also included a notion of a 'Universal Machine' (now known as a universal Turing machine), with the idea that such a machine could perform the tasks of any other computation machine (as indeed could Church's lambda calculus). According to the Church–Turing thesis, Turing machines and the lambda calculus are capable of computing anything that is computable. John von Neumann acknowledged that the central concept of the modern computer was due to Turing's paper. [52] To this day, Turing machines are a central object of study in theory of computation.

From September 1936 to July 1938, Turing spent most of his time studying under Church at Princeton University, [4] in the second year as a Jane Eliza Procter Visiting Fellow. In addition to his purely mathematical work, he studied cryptology and also built three of four stages of an electro-mechanical binary multiplier. [53] In June 1938, he obtained his PhD from the Department of Mathematics at Princeton [54] his dissertation, Systems of Logic Based on Ordinals, [55] [56] introduced the concept of ordinal logic and the notion of relative computing, in which Turing machines are augmented with so-called oracles, allowing the study of problems that cannot be solved by Turing machines. John von Neumann wanted to hire him as his postdoctoral assistant, but he went back to the United Kingdom. [57]

When Turing returned to Cambridge, he attended lectures given in 1939 by Ludwig Wittgenstein about the foundations of mathematics. [58] The lectures have been reconstructed verbatim, including interjections from Turing and other students, from students' notes. [59] Turing and Wittgenstein argued and disagreed, with Turing defending formalism and Wittgenstein propounding his view that mathematics does not discover any absolute truths, but rather invents them. [60]


During the Second World War, Turing was a leading participant in the breaking of German ciphers at Bletchley Park. The historian and wartime codebreaker Asa Briggs has said, "You needed exceptional talent, you needed genius at Bletchley and Turing's was that genius." [61]

From September 1938, Turing worked part-time with the Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS), the British codebreaking organisation. He concentrated on cryptanalysis of the Enigma cipher machine used by Nazi Germany, together with Dilly Knox, a senior GC&CS codebreaker. [62] Soon after the July 1939 meeting near Warsaw at which the Polish Cipher Bureau gave the British and French details of the wiring of Enigma machine's rotors and their method of decrypting Enigma machine's messages, Turing and Knox developed a broader solution. [63] The Polish method relied on an insecure indicator procedure that the Germans were likely to change, which they in fact did in May 1940. Turing's approach was more general, using crib-based decryption for which he produced the functional specification of the bombe (an improvement on the Polish Bomba). [64]

On 4 September 1939, the day after the UK declared war on Germany, Turing reported to Bletchley Park, the wartime station of GC&CS. [65] Specifying the bombe was the first of five major cryptanalytical advances that Turing made during the war. The others were: deducing the indicator procedure used by the German navy developing a statistical procedure dubbed Banburismus for making much more efficient use of the bombes developing a procedure dubbed Turingery for working out the cam settings of the wheels of the Lorenz SZ 40/42 (Tunny) cipher machine and, towards the end of the war, the development of a portable secure voice scrambler at Hanslope Park that was codenamed Delilah.

By using statistical techniques to optimise the trial of different possibilities in the code breaking process, Turing made an innovative contribution to the subject. He wrote two papers discussing mathematical approaches, titled The Applications of Probability to Cryptography [66] and Paper on Statistics of Repetitions, [67] which were of such value to GC&CS and its successor GCHQ that they were not released to the UK National Archives until April 2012, shortly before the centenary of his birth. A GCHQ mathematician, "who identified himself only as Richard," said at the time that the fact that the contents had been restricted for some 70 years demonstrated their importance, and their relevance to post-war cryptanalysis: [68]

[He] said the fact that the contents had been restricted "shows what a tremendous importance it has in the foundations of our subject". . The papers detailed using "mathematical analysis to try and determine which are the more likely settings so that they can be tried as quickly as possible." . Richard said that GCHQ had now "squeezed the juice" out of the two papers and was "happy for them to be released into the public domain".

Turing had a reputation for eccentricity at Bletchley Park. He was known to his colleagues as "Prof" and his treatise on Enigma was known as the "Prof's Book". [69] According to historian Ronald Lewin, Jack Good, a cryptanalyst who worked with Turing, said of his colleague:

In the first week of June each year he would get a bad attack of hay fever, and he would cycle to the office wearing a service gas mask to keep the pollen off. His bicycle had a fault: the chain would come off at regular intervals. Instead of having it mended he would count the number of times the pedals went round and would get off the bicycle in time to adjust the chain by hand. Another of his eccentricities is that he chained his mug to the radiator pipes to prevent it being stolen. [70]

Peter Hilton recounted his experience working with Turing in Hut 8 in his "Reminiscences of Bletchley Park" from A Century of Mathematics in America: [71]

It is a rare experience to meet an authentic genius. Those of us privileged to inhabit the world of scholarship are familiar with the intellectual stimulation furnished by talented colleagues. We can admire the ideas they share with us and are usually able to understand their source we may even often believe that we ourselves could have created such concepts and originated such thoughts. However, the experience of sharing the intellectual life of a genius is entirely different one realizes that one is in the presence of an intelligence, a sensibility of such profundity and originality that one is filled with wonder and excitement. Alan Turing was such a genius, and those, like myself, who had the astonishing and unexpected opportunity, created by the strange exigencies of the Second World War, to be able to count Turing as colleague and friend will never forget that experience, nor can we ever lose its immense benefit to us.

Hilton echoed similar thoughts in the Nova PBS documentary Decoding Nazi Secrets. [72]

While working at Bletchley, Turing, who was a talented long-distance runner, occasionally ran the 40 miles (64 km) to London when he was needed for meetings, [73] and he was capable of world-class marathon standards. [74] [75] Turing tried out for the 1948 British Olympic team but he was hampered by an injury. His tryout time for the marathon was only 11 minutes slower than British silver medallist Thomas Richards' Olympic race time of 2 hours 35 minutes. He was Walton Athletic Club's best runner, a fact discovered when he passed the group while running alone. [76] [77] [78] When asked why he ran so hard in training he replied:

I have such a stressful job that the only way I can get it out of my mind is by running hard it’s the only way I can get some release.

In 1946, Turing was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) by King George VI for his wartime services, but his work remained secret for many years. [80] [81]


Within weeks of arriving at Bletchley Park, [65] Turing had specified an electromechanical machine called the bombe, which could break Enigma more effectively than the Polish bomba kryptologiczna, from which its name was derived. The bombe, with an enhancement suggested by mathematician Gordon Welchman, became one of the primary tools, and the major automated one, used to attack Enigma-enciphered messages. [82]

The bombe searched for possible correct settings used for an Enigma message (i.e., rotor order, rotor settings and plugboard settings) using a suitable crib: a fragment of probable plaintext. For each possible setting of the rotors (which had on the order of 10 19 states, or 10 22 states for the four-rotor U-boat variant), [83] the bombe performed a chain of logical deductions based on the crib, implemented electromechanically. [84]

The bombe detected when a contradiction had occurred and ruled out that setting, moving on to the next. Most of the possible settings would cause contradictions and be discarded, leaving only a few to be investigated in detail. A contradiction would occur when an enciphered letter would be turned back into the same plaintext letter, which was impossible with the Enigma. The first bombe was installed on 18 March 1940. [85]

By late 1941, Turing and his fellow cryptanalysts Gordon Welchman, Hugh Alexander and Stuart Milner-Barry were frustrated. Building on the work of the Poles, they had set up a good working system for decrypting Enigma signals, but their limited staff and bombes meant they could not translate all the signals. In the summer, they had considerable success, and shipping losses had fallen to under 100,000 tons a month however, they badly needed more resources to keep abreast of German adjustments. They had tried to get more people and fund more bombes through the proper channels, but had failed. [86]

On 28 October they wrote directly to Winston Churchill explaining their difficulties, with Turing as the first named. They emphasised how small their need was compared with the vast expenditure of men and money by the forces and compared with the level of assistance they could offer to the forces. [86] As Andrew Hodges, biographer of Turing, later wrote, "This letter had an electric effect." [87] Churchill wrote a memo to General Ismay, which read: "ACTION THIS DAY. Make sure they have all they want on extreme priority and report to me that this has been done." On 18 November, the chief of the secret service reported that every possible measure was being taken. [87] The cryptographers at Bletchley Park did not know of the Prime Minister's response, but as Milner-Barry recalled, "All that we did notice was that almost from that day the rough ways began miraculously to be made smooth." [88] More than two hundred bombes were in operation by the end of the war. [89]

Hut 8 and the naval Enigma

Turing decided to tackle the particularly difficult problem of German naval Enigma "because no one else was doing anything about it and I could have it to myself". [91] In December 1939, Turing solved the essential part of the naval indicator system, which was more complex than the indicator systems used by the other services. [91] [92]

That same night, he also conceived of the idea of Banburismus, a sequential statistical technique (what Abraham Wald later called sequential analysis) to assist in breaking the naval Enigma, "though I was not sure that it would work in practice, and was not, in fact, sure until some days had actually broken." [91] For this, he invented a measure of weight of evidence that he called the ban. Banburismus could rule out certain sequences of the Enigma rotors, substantially reducing the time needed to test settings on the bombes. [93] Later this sequential process of accumulating sufficient weight of evidence using decibans (one tenth of a ban) was used in Cryptanalysis of the Lorenz cipher. [94]

Turing travelled to the United States in November 1942 [95] and worked with US Navy cryptanalysts on the naval Enigma and bombe construction in Washington he also visited their Computing Machine Laboratory in Dayton, Ohio.

Turing's reaction to the American bombe design was far from enthusiastic:

The American Bombe programme was to produce 336 Bombes, one for each wheel order. I used to smile inwardly at the conception of Bombe hut routine implied by this programme, but thought that no particular purpose would be served by pointing out that we would not really use them in that way. Their test (of commutators) can hardly be considered conclusive as they were not testing for the bounce with electronic stop finding devices. Nobody seems to be told about rods or offiziers or banburismus unless they are really going to do something about it. [96]

During this trip, he also assisted at Bell Labs with the development of secure speech devices. [97] He returned to Bletchley Park in March 1943. During his absence, Hugh Alexander had officially assumed the position of head of Hut 8, although Alexander had been de facto head for some time (Turing having little interest in the day-to-day running of the section). Turing became a general consultant for cryptanalysis at Bletchley Park. [98]

Alexander wrote of Turing's contribution:

There should be no question in anyone's mind that Turing's work was the biggest factor in Hut 8's success. In the early days, he was the only cryptographer who thought the problem worth tackling and not only was he primarily responsible for the main theoretical work within the Hut, but he also shared with Welchman and Keen the chief credit for the invention of the bombe. It is always difficult to say that anyone is 'absolutely indispensable', but if anyone was indispensable to Hut 8, it was Turing. The pioneer's work always tends to be forgotten when experience and routine later make everything seem easy and many of us in Hut 8 felt that the magnitude of Turing's contribution was never fully realised by the outside world. [99]


In July 1942, Turing devised a technique termed Turingery (or jokingly Turingismus) [100] for use against the Lorenz cipher messages produced by the Germans' new Geheimschreiber (secret writer) machine. This was a teleprinter rotor cipher attachment codenamed Tunny at Bletchley Park. Turingery was a method of wheel-breaking, i.e., a procedure for working out the cam settings of Tunny's wheels. [101] He also introduced the Tunny team to Tommy Flowers who, under the guidance of Max Newman, went on to build the Colossus computer, the world's first programmable digital electronic computer, which replaced a simpler prior machine (the Heath Robinson), and whose superior speed allowed the statistical decryption techniques to be applied usefully to the messages. [102] Some have mistakenly said that Turing was a key figure in the design of the Colossus computer. Turingery and the statistical approach of Banburismus undoubtedly fed into the thinking about cryptanalysis of the Lorenz cipher, [103] [104] but he was not directly involved in the Colossus development. [105]


Following his work at Bell Labs in the US, [106] Turing pursued the idea of electronic enciphering of speech in the telephone system. In the latter part of the war, he moved to work for the Secret Service's Radio Security Service (later HMGCC) at Hanslope Park. At the park, he further developed his knowledge of electronics with the assistance of engineer Donald Bayley. Together they undertook the design and construction of a portable secure voice communications machine codenamed Delilah. [107] The machine was intended for different applications, but it lacked the capability for use with long-distance radio transmissions. In any case, Delilah was completed too late to be used during the war. Though the system worked fully, with Turing demonstrating it to officials by encrypting and decrypting a recording of a Winston Churchill speech, Delilah was not adopted for use. [108] Turing also consulted with Bell Labs on the development of SIGSALY, a secure voice system that was used in the later years of the war.

Early computers and the Turing test

Between 1945 and 1947, Turing lived in Hampton, London, [109] while he worked on the design of the ACE (Automatic Computing Engine) at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL). He presented a paper on 19 February 1946, which was the first detailed design of a stored-program computer. [110] Von Neumann's incomplete First Draft of a Report on the EDVAC had predated Turing's paper, but it was much less detailed and, according to John R. Womersley, Superintendent of the NPL Mathematics Division, it "contains a number of ideas which are Dr. Turing's own". [111] Although ACE was a feasible design, the secrecy surrounding the wartime work at Bletchley Park led to delays in starting the project and he became disillusioned. In late 1947 he returned to Cambridge for a sabbatical year during which he produced a seminal work on Intelligent Machinery that was not published in his lifetime. [112] While he was at Cambridge, the Pilot ACE was being built in his absence. It executed its first program on 10 May 1950, and a number of later computers around the world owe much to it, including the English Electric DEUCE and the American Bendix G-15. The full version of Turing's ACE was not built until after his death. [113]

According to the memoirs of the German computer pioneer Heinz Billing from the Max Planck Institute for Physics, published by Genscher, Düsseldorf, there was a meeting between Turing and Konrad Zuse. [114] It took place in Göttingen in 1947. The interrogation had the form of a colloquium. Participants were Womersley, Turing, Porter from England and a few German researchers like Zuse, Walther, and Billing (for more details see Herbert Bruderer, Konrad Zuse und die Schweiz).

In 1948, Turing was appointed reader in the Mathematics Department at the Victoria University of Manchester. A year later, he became Deputy Director of the Computing Machine Laboratory, where he worked on software for one of the earliest stored-program computers—the Manchester Mark 1. Turing wrote the first version of the Programmer's Manual for this machine, and was recruited by Ferranti as a consultant in the development of their commercialised machine, the Ferranti Mark 1. He continued to be paid consultancy fees by Ferranti until his death. [115] During this time, he continued to do more abstract work in mathematics, [116] and in "Computing Machinery and Intelligence" (Mind, October 1950), Turing addressed the problem of artificial intelligence, and proposed an experiment that became known as the Turing test, an attempt to define a standard for a machine to be called "intelligent". The idea was that a computer could be said to "think" if a human interrogator could not tell it apart, through conversation, from a human being. [117] In the paper, Turing suggested that rather than building a program to simulate the adult mind, it would be better to produce a simpler one to simulate a child's mind and then to subject it to a course of education. A reversed form of the Turing test is widely used on the Internet the CAPTCHA test is intended to determine whether the user is a human or a computer.

In 1948 Turing, working with his former undergraduate colleague, D.G. Champernowne, began writing a chess program for a computer that did not yet exist. By 1950, the program was completed and dubbed the Turochamp. [118] In 1952, he tried to implement it on a Ferranti Mark 1, but lacking enough power, the computer was unable to execute the program. Instead, Turing "ran" the program by flipping through the pages of the algorithm and carrying out its instructions on a chessboard, taking about half an hour per move. The game was recorded. [119] According to Garry Kasparov, Turing's program "played a recognizable game of chess." [120] The program lost to Turing's colleague Alick Glennie, although it is said that it won a game against Champernowne's wife, Isabel. [121]

His Turing test was a significant, characteristically provocative, and lasting contribution to the debate regarding artificial intelligence, which continues after more than half a century. [122]

Pattern formation and mathematical biology

When Turing was 39 years old in 1951, he turned to mathematical biology, finally publishing his masterpiece "The Chemical Basis of Morphogenesis" in January 1952. He was interested in morphogenesis, the development of patterns and shapes in biological organisms. He suggested that a system of chemicals reacting with each other and diffusing across space, termed a reaction-diffusion system, could account for "the main phenomena of morphogenesis". [123] He used systems of partial differential equations to model catalytic chemical reactions. For example, if a catalyst A is required for a certain chemical reaction to take place, and if the reaction produced more of the catalyst A, then we say that the reaction is autocatalytic, and there is positive feedback that can be modelled by nonlinear differential equations. Turing discovered that patterns could be created if the chemical reaction not only produced catalyst A, but also produced an inhibitor B that slowed down the production of A. If A and B then diffused through the container at different rates, then you could have some regions where A dominated and some where B did. To calculate the extent of this, Turing would have needed a powerful computer, but these were not so freely available in 1951, so he had to use linear approximations to solve the equations by hand. These calculations gave the right qualitative results, and produced, for example, a uniform mixture that oddly enough had regularly spaced fixed red spots. The Russian biochemist Boris Belousov had performed experiments with similar results, but could not get his papers published because of the contemporary prejudice that any such thing violated the second law of thermodynamics. Belousov was not aware of Turing's paper in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. [124]

Although published before the structure and role of DNA was understood, Turing's work on morphogenesis remains relevant today and is considered a seminal piece of work in mathematical biology. [125] One of the early applications of Turing's paper was the work by James Murray explaining spots and stripes on the fur of cats, large and small. [126] [127] [128] Further research in the area suggests that Turing's work can partially explain the growth of "feathers, hair follicles, the branching pattern of lungs, and even the left-right asymmetry that puts the heart on the left side of the chest." [129] In 2012, Sheth, et al. found that in mice, removal of Hox genes causes an increase in the number of digits without an increase in the overall size of the limb, suggesting that Hox genes control digit formation by tuning the wavelength of a Turing-type mechanism. [130] Later papers were not available until Collected Works of A. M. Turing was published in 1992. [131]


In 1941, Turing proposed marriage to Hut 8 colleague Joan Clarke, a fellow mathematician and cryptanalyst, but their engagement was short-lived. After admitting his homosexuality to his fiancée, who was reportedly "unfazed" by the revelation, Turing decided that he could not go through with the marriage. [132]

Conviction for indecency

In January 1952, Turing was 39 when he started a relationship with Arnold Murray, a 19-year-old unemployed man. Just before Christmas, Turing was walking along Manchester's Oxford Road when he met Murray just outside the Regal Cinema and invited him to lunch. On 23 January, Turing's house was burgled. Murray told Turing that he and the burglar were acquainted, and Turing reported the crime to the police. During the investigation, he acknowledged a sexual relationship with Murray. Homosexual acts were criminal offences in the United Kingdom at that time, [133] and both men were charged with "gross indecency" under Section 11 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885. [134] Initial committal proceedings for the trial were held on 27 February during which Turing's solicitor "reserved his defence", i.e., did not argue or provide evidence against the allegations.

Turing was later convinced by the advice of his brother and his own solicitor, and he entered a plea of guilty. [135] The case, Regina v. Turing and Murray, was brought to trial on 31 March 1952. [136] Turing was convicted and given a choice between imprisonment and probation. His probation would be conditional on his agreement to undergo hormonal physical changes designed to reduce libido. He accepted the option of injections of what was then called stilboestrol (now known as diethylstilbestrol or DES), a synthetic oestrogen this feminization of his body was continued for the course of one year. The treatment rendered Turing impotent and caused breast tissue to form, [137] fulfilling in the literal sense Turing's prediction that "no doubt I shall emerge from it all a different man, but quite who I've not found out". [138] [139] Murray was given a conditional discharge. [140]

Turing's conviction led to the removal of his security clearance and barred him from continuing with his cryptographic consultancy for the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the British signals intelligence agency that had evolved from GC&CS in 1946, though he kept his academic job. He was denied entry into the United States after his conviction in 1952, but was free to visit other European countries. Turing was never accused of espionage but, in common with all who had worked at Bletchley Park, he was prevented by the Official Secrets Act from discussing his war work. [141]


On 8 June 1954, Turing's housekeeper found him dead at the age of 41 he had died the previous day. Cyanide poisoning was established as the cause of death. [142] When his body was discovered, an apple lay half-eaten beside his bed, and although the apple was not tested for cyanide, [143] it was speculated that this was the means by which Turing had consumed a fatal dose. An inquest determined that he had committed suicide. Andrew Hodges and another biographer, David Leavitt, have both speculated that Turing was re-enacting a scene from the Walt Disney film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), his favourite fairy tale. Both men noted that (in Leavitt's words) he took "an especially keen pleasure in the scene where the Wicked Queen immerses her apple in the poisonous brew". [144] Turing's remains were cremated at Woking Crematorium on 12 June 1954, [145] and his ashes were scattered in the gardens of the crematorium, just as his father's had been. [146]

Philosophy professor Jack Copeland has questioned various aspects of the coroner's historical verdict. He suggested an alternative explanation for the cause of Turing's death: the accidental inhalation of cyanide fumes from an apparatus used to electroplate gold onto spoons. The potassium cyanide was used to dissolve the gold. Turing had such an apparatus set up in his tiny spare room. Copeland noted that the autopsy findings were more consistent with inhalation than with ingestion of the poison. Turing also habitually ate an apple before going to bed, and it was not unusual for the apple to be discarded half-eaten. [147] Furthermore, Turing had reportedly borne his legal setbacks and hormone treatment (which had been discontinued a year previously) "with good humour" and had shown no sign of despondency prior to his death. He even set down a list of tasks that he intended to complete upon returning to his office after the holiday weekend. [147] Turing's mother believed that the ingestion was accidental, resulting from her son's careless storage of laboratory chemicals. [148] Biographer Andrew Hodges theorised that Turing arranged the delivery of the equipment to deliberately allow his mother plausible deniability with regard to any suicide claims. [149]

Conspiracy theorists pointed out that Turing was the cause of intense anxiety to the British authorities at the time of his death. The secret services feared that communists would entrap prominent homosexuals and use them to gather intelligence. Turing was still engaged in highly classified work when he was also a practising homosexual who holidayed in European countries near the Iron Curtain. According to the conspiracy theory, it is possible that the secret services considered him too great a security risk and assassinated one of the most brilliant minds in their employ. [150]

It has been suggested that Turing's belief in fortune-telling may have caused his depressed mood. [146] As a youth, Turing had been told by a fortune-teller that he would be a genius. In mid-May 1954, shortly before his death, Turing again decided to consult a fortune-teller during a day-trip to St Annes-on-Sea with the Greenbaum family. [146] According to the Greenbaums' daughter, Barbara: [151]

But it was a lovely sunny day and Alan was in a cheerful mood and off we went. Then he thought it would be a good idea to go to the Pleasure Beach at Blackpool. We found a fortune-teller's tent[,] and Alan said he'd like to go in[,] so we waited around for him to come back. And this sunny, cheerful visage had shrunk into a pale, shaking, horror-stricken face. Something had happened. We don't know what the fortune-teller said[,] but he obviously was deeply unhappy. I think that was probably the last time we saw him before we heard of his suicide.

Government apology and pardon

In August 2009, British programmer John Graham-Cumming started a petition urging the British government to apologise for Turing's prosecution as a homosexual. [152] [153] The petition received more than 30,000 signatures. [154] [155] The Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, acknowledged the petition, releasing a statement on 10 September 2009 apologising and describing the treatment of Turing as "appalling": [154] [156]

Thousands of people have come together to demand justice for Alan Turing and recognition of the appalling way he was treated. While Turing was dealt with under the law of the time and we can't put the clock back, his treatment was of course utterly unfair and I am pleased to have the chance to say how deeply sorry I and we all are for what happened to him . So on behalf of the British government, and all those who live freely thanks to Alan's work I am very proud to say: we're sorry, you deserved so much better. [154] [157]

In December 2011, William Jones and his Member of Parliament, John Leech, created an e-petition [158] requesting that the British government pardon Turing for his conviction of "gross indecency": [159]

We ask the HM Government to grant a pardon to Alan Turing for the conviction of "gross indecency". In 1952, he was convicted of "gross indecency" with another man and was forced to undergo so-called "organo-therapy"—chemical castration. Two years later, he killed himself with cyanide, aged just 41. Alan Turing was driven to a terrible despair and early death by the nation he'd done so much to save. This remains a shame on the British government and British history. A pardon can go some way to healing this damage. It may act as an apology to many of the other gay men, not as well-known as Alan Turing, who were subjected to these laws. [158]

The petition gathered over 37,000 signatures, [158] [160] and was submitted to Parliament by the Manchester MP John Leech but the request was discouraged by Justice Minister Lord McNally, who said: [161]

A posthumous pardon was not considered appropriate as Alan Turing was properly convicted of what at the time was a criminal offence. He would have known that his offence was against the law and that he would be prosecuted. It is tragic that Alan Turing was convicted of an offence that now seems both cruel and absurd—particularly poignant given his outstanding contribution to the war effort. However, the law at the time required a prosecution and, as such, long-standing policy has been to accept that such convictions took place and, rather than trying to alter the historical context and to put right what cannot be put right, ensure instead that we never again return to those times. [162]

John Leech, the MP for Manchester Withington (2005–15), submitted several bills to Parliament [163] and led a high-profile campaign to secure the pardon. Leech made the case in the House of Commons that Turing's contribution to the war made him a national hero and that it was "ultimately just embarrassing" that the conviction still stood. [164] Leech continued to take the bill through Parliament and campaigned for several years, gaining the public support of numerous leading scientists, including Stephen Hawking. [165] [166] At the British premiere of a film based on Turing's life, The Imitation Game, the producers thanked Leech for bringing the topic to public attention and securing Turing's pardon. [167] Leech is now regularly described as the "architect" of Turing's pardon and subsequently the Alan Turing Law which went on to secure pardons for 75,000 other men and women convicted of similar crimes. [168] [169] [170] [171] [172] [173] [174] [175] [176] [177] [178]

On 26 July 2012, a bill was introduced in the House of Lords to grant a statutory pardon to Turing for offences under section 11 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885, of which he was convicted on 31 March 1952. [179] Late in the year in a letter to The Daily Telegraph, the physicist Stephen Hawking and 10 other signatories including the Astronomer Royal Lord Rees, President of the Royal Society Sir Paul Nurse, Lady Trumpington (who worked for Turing during the war) and Lord Sharkey (the bill's sponsor) called on Prime Minister David Cameron to act on the pardon request. [180] The government indicated it would support the bill, [181] [182] [183] and it passed its third reading in the House of Lords in October. [184]

At the bill's second reading in the House of Commons on 29 November 2013, Conservative MP Christopher Chope objected to the bill, delaying its passage. The bill was due to return to the House of Commons on 28 February 2014, [185] but before the bill could be debated in the House of Commons, [186] the government elected to proceed under the royal prerogative of mercy. On 24 December 2013, Queen Elizabeth II signed a pardon for Turing's conviction for "gross indecency", with immediate effect. [187] Announcing the pardon, Lord Chancellor Chris Grayling said Turing deserved to be "remembered and recognised for his fantastic contribution to the war effort" and not for his later criminal conviction. [160] [188] The Queen officially pronounced Turing pardoned in August 2014. [189] The Queen's action is only the fourth royal pardon granted since the conclusion of the Second World War. [190] Pardons are normally granted only when the person is technically innocent, and a request has been made by the family or other interested party neither condition was met in regard to Turing's conviction. [191]

In a letter to the Prime Minister, David Cameron, human rights advocate Peter Tatchell criticised the decision to single out Turing due to his fame and achievements when thousands of others convicted under the same law have not received pardons. [192] Tatchell also called for a new investigation into Turing's death:

A new inquiry is long overdue, even if only to dispel any doubts about the true cause of his death—including speculation that he was murdered by the security services (or others). I think murder by state agents is unlikely. There is no known evidence pointing to any such act. However, it is a major failing that this possibility has never been considered or investigated. [193]

In September 2016, the government announced its intention to expand this retroactive exoneration to other men convicted of similar historical indecency offences, in what was described as an "Alan Turing law". [194] [195] The Alan Turing law is now an informal term for the law in the United Kingdom, contained in the Policing and Crime Act 2017, which serves as an amnesty law to retroactively pardon men who were cautioned or convicted under historical legislation that outlawed homosexual acts. The law applies in England and Wales. [196]

Awards, honours, and tributes

Turing was appointed an officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1946. [81] He was also elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 1951. [8]

Turing has been honoured in various ways in Manchester, the city where he worked towards the end of his life. In 1994, a stretch of the A6010 road (the Manchester city intermediate ring road) was named "Alan Turing Way". A bridge carrying this road was widened, and carries the name Alan Turing Bridge. A statue of Turing was unveiled in Manchester on 23 June 2001 in Sackville Park, between the University of Manchester building on Whitworth Street and Canal Street. The memorial statue depicts the "father of computer science" sitting on a bench at a central position in the park. Turing is shown holding an apple. The cast bronze bench carries in relief the text 'Alan Mathison Turing 1912–1954', and the motto 'Founder of Computer Science' as it could appear if encoded by an Enigma machine: 'IEKYF ROMSI ADXUO KVKZC GUBJ'. However, the meaning of the coded message is disputed, as the 'u' in 'computer' matches up with the 'u' in 'ADXUO'. As a letter encoded by an enigma machine cannot appear as itself, the actual message behind the code is uncertain. [197]

A plaque at the statue's feet reads 'Father of computer science, mathematician, logician, wartime codebreaker, victim of prejudice'. There is also a Bertrand Russell quotation: "Mathematics, rightly viewed, possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty—a beauty cold and austere, like that of sculpture." The sculptor buried his own old Amstrad computer under the plinth as a tribute to "the godfather of all modern computers". [198]

In 1999, Time magazine named Turing as one of the 100 Most Important People of the 20th century and stated, "The fact remains that everyone who taps at a keyboard, opening a spreadsheet or a word-processing program, is working on an incarnation of a Turing machine." [9]

A blue plaque was unveiled at King's College on the centenary of his birth on 23 June 2012 and is now installed at the college's Keynes Building on King's Parade. [199] [200]

On 25 March 2021, the Bank of England publicly unveiled the design for a new £50 note, featuring Turing's portrait, before its official issue on 23 June, Turing's birthday. Turing was selected as the new face of the note in 2019 following a public nomination process. [201]

Centenary celebrations

To mark the 100th anniversary of Turing's birth, the Turing Centenary Advisory Committee (TCAC) co-ordinated the Alan Turing Year, a year-long programme of events around the world honouring Turing's life and achievements. The TCAC, chaired by S. Barry Cooper with Turing's nephew Sir John Dermot Turing acting as Honorary President, worked with the University of Manchester faculty members and a broad spectrum of people from Cambridge University and Bletchley Park.

Steel sculpture controversy

In May 2020 it was reported by Gay Star News that a 12-foot (3.7 m) high steel sculpture, to honour Turing, designed by Sir Antony Gormley, was planned to be installed at King's College, Cambridge. Historic England, however, was quoted as saying that the abstract work of 19 steel slabs ". would be at odds with the existing character of the College. This would result in harm, of a less than substantial nature, to the significance of the listed buildings and landscape, and by extension the conservation area." [202]

The Second World War and science

Photo: Wind tunnel testing at the Aerodynamic Research Institute of KWG, 1940, Archives of the Max Planck Society.

The German armed forces’ invasion of Poland started the Second World War in September 1939. But even before that, research conducted in accordance with the Nazi state’s military strategy and ideological interests had enjoyed financial support. Defence research and biomedical projects benefitted in particular from the dictatorship’s ideological agenda: In Göttingen, the aerodynamic testing facility (AVA) developed into an early institution for Big Science. Researchers here experimented with water and wind tunnels to investigate flying and flow behaviour for aircraft construction and torpedo design. The German Army Ordnance Office took command of large parts of the KWI of Physics in 1940. The field of agronomic research, tasked with providing practical assistance for Hitler’s plans for new ‘lebensraum’ in the East, profited the most from the German armed forces’ conquests in Eastern Europe. From 1943 onwards, Otmar von Verschuer was receiving specimens from the Auschwitz extermination camp from Josef Mengele for the KWI for Anthropology, Human Genetics and Eugenics. Between 1940 and 1945, the KWI for Brain Research in Berlin examined around 700 brains taken from mentally ill and mentally handicapped victims of the Nazi euthanasia that was happening at the same time.


Haber was born in Breslau (now Wrocław, Poland), Prussia, into a well-off Jewish family. [7] : 38 The family name Haber was a common one in the area, but Haber's family has been traced back to a great-grandfather, Pinkus Selig Haber, a wool dealer from Kempen (now Kępno, Poland). An important Prussian edict of 13 March 1812 determined that Jews and their families, including Pinkus Haber, were "to be treated as local citizens and citizens of Prussia". Under such regulations, members of the Haber family were able to establish themselves in respected positions in business, politics, and law. [8] : 3–5

Haber was the son of Siegfried and Paula Haber, first cousins who married in spite of considerable opposition from their families. [9] Haber's father Siegfried was a well-known merchant in the town, who had founded his own business in dye pigments, paints and pharmaceuticals. [8] : 6 Paula experienced a difficult pregnancy and died three weeks after Fritz's birth, leaving Siegfried devastated and Fritz in the care of various aunts. [8] : 11 When Haber was about six years old, Siegfried remarried, to Hedwig Hamburger. Siegfried and his second wife had three daughters, Else, Helene and Frieda. Although his relationship with his father was distant and often difficult, Haber developed close relationships with his step-mother and his half-sisters. [8] : 7

By the time Fritz was born, the Habers had to some extent assimilated into German society. He attended primary school at the Johanneum School, a "simultaneous school" open equally to Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish students. [8] : 12 At age 11, he went to school at the St. Elizabeth classical school, in a class evenly divided between Protestant and Jewish students. [8] : 14 His family supported the Jewish community and continued to observe many Jewish traditions, but were not strongly associated with the synagogue. [8] : 15 Haber identified strongly as German, less so as Jewish. [8] : 15

Haber successfully passed his examinations at the St. Elizabeth High School in Breslau in September 1886. [8] : 16 Although his father wished him to apprentice in the dye company, Haber obtained his father's permission to study chemistry, at the Friedrich Wilhelm University in Berlin (today the Humboldt University of Berlin), with the director of the Institute for Chemistry, A. W. Hofmann. [8] : 17 Haber was disappointed by his initial winter semester (1886–87) in Berlin, and arranged to attend the Heidelberg University for the summer semester of 1887, where he studied under Robert Bunsen. [8] : 18 He then returned to Berlin, to the Technical College of Charlottenburg (today the Technical University of Berlin). [8] : 19

In the summer of 1889 Haber left university to perform a legally required year of voluntary service in the Sixth Field Artillery Regiment. [8] : 20 Upon its completion, he returned to Charlottenburg where he became a student of Carl Liebermann. In addition to Liebermann's lectures on organic chemistry, Haber also attended lectures by Otto Witt on the chemical technology of dyes. [8] : 21

Liebermann assigned Haber to work on reactions with piperonal for his thesis topic, published as Ueber einige Derivate des Piperonals (About a Few piperonal Derivatives) in 1891. [10] Haber received his doctorate cum laude from Friedrich Wilhelm University in May 1891, after presenting his work to a board of examiners from the University of Berlin, since Charlottenburg was not yet accredited to grant doctorates. [8] : 22

With his degree, Haber returned to Breslau to work at his father's chemical business. They did not get along well. Through Siegfried's connections, Haber was assigned a series of practical apprenticeships in different chemical companies, to gain experience. These included Grünwald and Company (a Budapest distillers), an Austrian ammonia-sodium factory, and the Feldmühle paper and cellulose works. Haber realized, based on these experiences, that he needed to learn more about technical processes, and persuaded his father to let him spend a semester at Polytechnic College in Zürich (now the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology), studying with Georg Lunge. [8] : 27–29 In fall of 1892, Haber returned again to Breslau to work in his father's company, but the two men continued to clash and Siegfried finally accepted that they could not work well together. [8] : 30–31

Haber then sought an academic appointment, first working as an independent assistant to Ludwig Knorr at the University of Jena between 1892 and 1894. [8] : 32 During his time in Jena, Haber converted from Judaism to Lutheranism, possibly in an attempt to improve his chances of getting a better academic or military position. [8] : 33 Knorr recommended Haber to Carl Engler, [8] : 33 a chemistry professor at the University of Karlsruhe who was intensely interested in the chemical technology of dye and the dye industry, and the study of synthetic materials for textiles. [8] : 38 Engler referred Haber to a colleague in Karlsruhe, Hans Bunte, who made Haber an Assistent in 1894. [8] : 40 [11]

Bunte suggested that Haber examine the thermal decomposition of hydrocarbons. By making careful quantitative analyses, Haber was able to establish that "the thermal stability of the carbon-carbon bond is greater than that of the carbon-hydrogen bond in aromatic compounds and smaller in aliphatic compounds", a classic result in the study of pyrolysis of hydrocarbons. This work became Haber's habilitation thesis. [8] : 40

Haber was appointed a Privatdozent in Bunte's institute, taking on teaching duties related to the area of dye technology, and continuing to work on the combustion of gases. In 1896, the university supported him in traveling to Silesia, Saxony, and Austria to learn about advances in dye technology. [8] : 41

In 1897 Haber made a similar trip to learn about developments in electrochemistry. [8] : 41 He had been interested in the area for some time, and had worked with another privatdozent, Hans Luggin, who gave theoretical lectures in electrochemistry and physical chemistry. Haber's 1898 book Grundriss der technischen Elektrochemie auf theoretischer Grundlage (Outline of technical electrochemistry based on theoretical foundations) attracted considerable attention, particularly his work on the reduction of nitrobenzene. In the book's foreword, Haber expresses his gratitude to Luggin, who died on 5 December 1899. [8] : 42 Haber collaborated with others in the area as well, including Georg Bredig, a student and later an assistant of Wilhelm Ostwald in Leipzig. [8] : 43

Bunte and Engler supported an application for further authorization of Haber's teaching activities, and on 6 December 1898, Haber was invested with the title of Extraordinarius and an associate professorship, by order of the Grand Duke Friedrich von Baden. [8] : 44

Haber worked in a variety of areas while at Karlsruhe, making significant contributions in several areas. In the area of dye and textiles, he and Friedrich Bran were able to theoretically explain steps in textile printing processes developed by Adolf Holz. Discussions with Carl Engler prompted Haber to explain autoxidation in electrochemical terms, differentiating between dry and wet autoxidation. Haber's examinations of the thermodynamics of the reaction of solids confirmed that Faraday's laws hold for the electrolysis of crystalline salts. This work led to a theoretical basis for the glass electrode and the measurement of electrolytic potentials. Haber's work on irreversible and reversible forms of electrochemical reduction are considered classics in the field of electrochemistry. He also studied the passivity of non-rare metals and the effects of electric current on corrosion of metals. [8] : 55 In addition, Haber published his second book, Thermodynamik technischer Gasreaktionen : sieben Vorlesungen (1905) trans. Thermodynamics of technical gas-reactions : seven lectures (1908), later regarded as "a model of accuracy and critical insight" in the field of chemical thermodynamics. [8] : 56–58

In 1906, Max Le Blanc, chair of the physical chemistry department at Karlsruhe, accepted a position at the University of Leipzig. After receiving recommendations from a search committee, the Ministry of Education in Baden offered the full professorship for physical chemistry at Karlsruhe to Haber, who accepted the offer. [8] : 61

During his time at University of Karlsruhe from 1894 to 1911, Haber and his assistant Robert Le Rossignol invented the Haber–Bosch process, which is the catalytic formation of ammonia from hydrogen and atmospheric nitrogen under conditions of high temperature and pressure. [12] This discovery was a direct consequence of Le Châtelier's principle, announced in 1884, which states that when a system is in equilibrium and one of the factors affecting it is changed, the system will respond by minimizing the effect of the change. Since it was known how to decompose ammonia on nickel based catalyst, one could derive from Le Châtelier's principle that the reaction could be reversed to produce ammonia at high temperature and pressure (a process that Henry Louis Le Châtelier had even tried himself but gave up after his technician almost killed himself, due to an oxygen intake related explosion).

To further develop the process for large-scale ammonia production, Haber turned to industry. Teaming with Carl Bosch at BASF, the process was successfully scaled-up to produce commercial quantities of ammonia. [12] The Haber–Bosch process was a milestone in industrial chemistry. The production of nitrogen-based products such as fertilizer and chemical feedstocks, previously dependent on acquisition of ammonia from limited natural deposits, now became possible using an easily available, abundant base — atmospheric nitrogen. [13] The ability to produce much larger quantities of nitrogen-based fertilizers in turn supported much greater agricultural yields and prevented billions of people from starving to death. [14]

The discovery of a new way of producing ammonia had other significant economic impacts as well. Chile had been a major (and almost unique) producer of natural deposits such as sodium nitrate (caliche). After the introduction of the Haber process, naturally extracted nitrate production in Chile fell from 2.5 million tons (employing 60,000 workers and selling at US$45/ton) in 1925 to just 800,000 tons, produced by 14,133 workers, and selling at $19/ton in 1934. [15]

The annual world production of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer is currently more than 100 million tons. The food base of half of the current world population is based on the Haber–Bosch process. [14]

Haber was awarded the 1918 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for this work (he actually received the award in 1919). [16] In his acceptance speech for that Nobel Prize Haber commented "It may be that this solution is not the final one. Nitrogen bacteria teach us that Nature, with her sophisticated forms of the chemistry of living matter, still understands and utilizes methods which we do not as yet know how to imitate." [17]

Haber was also active in the research on combustion reactions, the separation of gold from sea water, adsorption effects, electrochemistry, and free radical research (see Fenton's reagent). A large part of his work from 1911 to 1933 was done at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physical Chemistry and Electrochemistry at Berlin-Dahlem. In 1953, this institute was renamed for him. He is sometimes credited, incorrectly, with first synthesizing MDMA (which was first synthesized by Merck KGaA chemist Anton Köllisch in 1912). [18]

Haber greeted World War I with enthusiasm, joining 92 other German intellectuals in signing the Manifesto of the Ninety-Three in October 1914. [19] Haber played a major role in the development of the non-ballistic use of chemical warfare in World War I, in spite of the proscription of their use in shells by the Hague Convention of 1907 (to which Germany was a signatory). He was promoted to the rank of captain and made head of the Chemistry Section in the Ministry of War soon after the war began. [8] : 133 In addition to leading the teams developing chlorine gas and other deadly gases for use in trench warfare, [20] Haber was on hand personally when it was first released by the German military at the Second Battle of Ypres (22 April to 25 May 1915) in Belgium. [8] : 138 Haber also helped to develop gas masks with adsorbent filters which could protect against such weapons.

A special troop was formed for gas warfare (Pioneer Regiments 35 and 36) under the command of Otto Peterson, with Haber and Friedrich Kerschbaum as advisors. Haber actively recruited physicists, chemists, and other scientists to be transferred to the unit. Future Nobel laureates James Franck, Gustav Hertz, and Otto Hahn served as gas troops in Haber's unit. [8] : 136–138 In 1914 and 1915, before the Second Battle of Ypres, Haber's unit investigated reports that the French had deployed Turpenite, a supposed chemical weapon, against German soldiers. [21]

Gas warfare in World War I was, in a sense, the war of the chemists, with Haber pitted against French Nobel laureate chemist Victor Grignard. Regarding war and peace, Haber once said, "during peace time a scientist belongs to the World, but during war time he belongs to his country." This was an example of the ethical dilemmas facing chemists at that time. [22]

Haber was a patriotic German who was proud of his service during World War I, for which he was decorated. He was even given the rank of captain by the Kaiser, which Haber had been denied 25 years earlier during his compulsory military service. [23]

In his studies of the effects of poison gas, Haber noted that exposure to a low concentration of a poisonous gas for a long time often had the same effect (death) as exposure to a high concentration for a short time. He formulated a simple mathematical relationship between the gas concentration and the necessary exposure time. This relationship became known as Haber's rule. [24] [25]

Haber defended gas warfare against accusations that it was inhumane, saying that death was death, by whatever means it was inflicted and referred to history: "The disapproval that the knight had for the man with the firearm is repeated in the soldier who shoots with steel bullets towards the man who confronts him with chemical weapons. [. ] The gas weapons are not at all more cruel than the flying iron pieces on the contrary, the fraction of fatal gas diseases is comparatively smaller, the mutilations are missing". [26] During the 1920s, scientists working at his institute developed the cyanide gas formulation Zyklon A, which was used as an insecticide, especially as a fumigant in grain stores. [27]

Haber received much criticism for his involvement in the development of chemical weapons in pre-World War II Germany, both from contemporaries, especially Albert Einstein and from modern-day scientists. [28] [29]

Haber met Clara Immerwahr in Breslau in 1889, while he was serving his required year in the military. Clara was the daughter of a chemist who owned a sugar factory, and was the first woman to earn a PhD (in chemistry) at the University of Breslau. [8] : 20 She converted from Judaism to Christianity in 1897, several years before she and Haber became engaged. They were married on 3 August 1901 [8] : 46 their son Hermann was born on 1 June 1902. [8] : 173

Clara was a women's rights activist and according to some accounts, a pacifist. Intelligent and a perfectionist, she became increasingly depressed after her marriage and the loss of her career. [30] [31] [32] On 2 May 1915, following an argument with Haber, Clara committed suicide in their garden by shooting herself in the heart with his service revolver. She did not die immediately, and was found by her 12-year-old son, Hermann, who had heard the shot. [8] : 176

Her reasons for suicide have been the subject of ongoing speculation. There were multiple stresses in the marriage, [32] [31] [30] and it has been suggested that she opposed Haber's work in chemical warfare. According to this view, her suicide may have been in part a response to Haber's having personally overseen the first successful use of chlorine gas during the Second Battle of Ypres, resulting in over 67,000 casualties. [33] [34] Haber left within days for the Eastern Front to oversee gas release against the Russian Army. [35] [36] Originally buried in Dahlem, Clara's remains were later transferred at her husband's request to Basel, where she is buried next to him. [8] : 176

Haber married his second wife, Charlotte Nathan, on 25 October 1917 in Berlin. [8] : 183 Charlotte, like Clara, converted from Judaism to Christianity before marrying Haber. [8] : 183 The couple had two children, Eva-Charlotte and Ludwig-Fritz ("Lutz"). [8] : 186 Again, however, there were conflicts, and the couple were divorced as of 6 December 1927. [8] : 188

Hermann Haber lived in France until 1941, but was unable to obtain French citizenship. When Germany invaded France during World War II, Hermann and his wife and three daughters escaped internment on a French ship travelling from Marseilles to the Caribbean. From there, they obtained visas allowing them to immigrate to the United States. Hermann's wife Margarethe died after the end of the war, and Hermann committed suicide in 1946. [8] : 182–183 His oldest daughter, Claire, committed suicide in 1949 also a chemist, she had been told her research into an antidote for the effects of chlorine gas was being set aside, as work on the atomic bomb was taking precedence. [37]

Haber's other son, Ludwig Fritz Haber (1921–2004), became an eminent British economist and wrote a history of chemical warfare in World War I,The Poisonous Cloud (1986). [38]

His daughter, Eva, lived in Kenya for many years, returning to England in the 1950s. She died in 2015, leaving three children, five grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

Several members of Haber's extended family died in Nazi concentration camps, including his half-sister Frieda's daughter, Hilde Glücksmann, her husband, and their two children. [8] : 235

From 1919 to 1923 Haber continued to be involved in Germany's secret development of chemical weapons, working with Hugo Stoltzenberg, and helping both Spain and Russia in the development of chemical gases. [8] : 169

From 1919 to 1925, in response to a request made by German ambassador to Japan Wilhelm Solf for Japanese support for German scholars in times of financial hardship, a Japanese businessman named Hoshi Hajime, the president of Hoshi Pharmaceutical Company donated two million Reichsmark to the Kaiser Wilhelm Society as the ‘Japan Fund’ (Hoshi-Ausschuss). Haber was asked to manage the fund, and was invited by Hoshi to Japan in 1924. Haber offered a number of chemical licenses to Hoshi's company, but the offers were refused. The money from the Fund was used to support the work of Richard Willstätter, Max Planck, Otto Hahn, Leo Szilard, and others. [39]

In the 1920s, Haber searched exhaustively for a method to extract gold from sea water, and published a number of scientific papers on the subject. After years of research, he concluded that the concentration of gold dissolved in sea water was much lower than those reported by earlier researchers, and that gold extraction from sea water was uneconomic. [7] : 91–98

By 1931, Haber was increasingly concerned about the rise of National Socialism in Germany, and the possible safety of his friends, associates, and family. Under the Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service of 7 April 1933, Jewish scientists at the Kaiser Wilhelm Society were particularly targeted. The Zeitschrift für die gesamte Naturwissenschaft ("Journal for all natural sciences") charged that "The founding of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institutes in Dahlem was the prelude to an influx of Jews into the physical sciences. The directorship of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physical and Electrochemistry was given to the Jew, F. Haber, the nephew of the big-time Jewish profiteer Koppel". (Koppel was not actually related to Haber.) [8] : 277–280 Haber was stunned by these developments, since he assumed that his conversion to Christianity and his services to the state during World War I should have made him a German patriot. [12] : 235–236 Ordered to dismiss all Jewish personnel, Haber attempted to delay their departures long enough to find them somewhere to go. [8] : 285–286 As of 30 April 1933, Haber wrote to Bernhard Rust, the national and Prussian minister of Education, and to Max Planck, president of the Kaiser Wilhelm Society, to tender his resignation as the director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute, and as a professor at the university, effective 1 October 1933. He said that although as a converted Jew he might be legally entitled to remain in his position, he no longer wished to do so. [8] : 280

Haber and his son Hermann also urged that Haber's children by Charlotte Nathan, at boarding school in Germany, should leave the country. [8] : 181 Charlotte and the children moved to the United Kingdom around 1933 or 1934. After the war, Charlotte's children became British citizens. [8] : 188–189

Haber left Dahlem in August 1933, staying briefly in Paris, Spain, and Switzerland. He was in extremely poor health during these travels, eventually suffering fatally from what was either a stroke or heart attack. [8] : 288

In the meantime, some of the scientists who had been Haber's counterparts and competitors in England during World War I now helped him and others to leave Germany. Brigadier Harold Hartley, Sir William Jackson Pope and Frederick G. Donnan arranged for Haber to be officially invited to Cambridge, England. [8] : 287–288 There, with his assistant Joseph Joshua Weiss, Haber lived and worked for a few months. [8] : 288 Scientists such as Ernest Rutherford were less forgiving of Haber's involvement in poison gas warfare: Rutherford pointedly refused to shake hands with him. [40]

In 1933, during Haber's brief sojourn in England, Chaim Weizmann offered him the directorship at the Sieff Research Institute (now the Weizmann Institute) in Rehovot, in Mandatory Palestine. He accepted, and left for the Middle East in January 1934, travelling with his half-sister, Else Haber Freyhahn. [8] : 209, 288–289 His ill health overpowered him and on 29 January 1934, at the age of 65, he died of heart failure, mid-journey, in a Basel hotel. [8] : 299–300

Following Haber's wishes, Haber and Clara's son Hermann arranged for Haber to be cremated and buried in Basel's Hörnli Cemetery on 29 September 1934, and for Clara's remains to be removed from Dahlem and re-interred with him on 27 January 1937 (see picture). [8] [41]

Haber bequeathed his extensive private library to the Sieff Institute, where it was dedicated as the Fritz Haber Library on 29 January 1936. Hermann Haber helped to move the library and gave a speech at the dedication. [8] : 182

In 1981, the Minerva foundation of the Max Planck Society and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HUJI) established the Fritz Haber Research Center for Molecular Dynamics, based at the Institute of Chemistry of the Hebrew University. Its purpose is the promotion of Israeli-German scientific collaboration in the field of Molecular Dynamics. The Center's library is also called Fritz Haber Library, but it is not immediately clear if there is any connection to the 1936 homonymous library of the Sieff (now Weizmann) Institute. [ citation needed ]

The institute most closely associated with his work, the former Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physical Chemistry and Electrochemistry at Dahlem (a suburb of Berlin), was renamed Fritz Haber Institute in 1953 and is part of the Max Planck Society.

  • Foreign Honorary Member, American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1914) [7] : 152 [42] (1918) [11]
  • Bunsen Medal of the Bunsen Society of Berlin, with Carl Bosch (1918) [43]
  • President of the German Chemical Society (1923) [44] : 169 , 1929
  • Honorary Member, Société Chimique de France (1931) [7] : 152
  • Honorary Member, Chemical Society of England (1931) [7] : 152
  • Honorary Member, Society of Chemical Industry, London, (1931) [7] : 152 , American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1932) [45]
  • Elected a Foreign Associate of the National Academy of Sciences, USA (1932) [46][47][48]
  • Honorary Member, USSR Academy of Sciences (1932) [7] : 152
  • Board of Directors, International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry, 1929–1933 Vice-President, 1931 [8] : 271 (Goethe Medal for Art and Science) from the President of Germany [44]

A fictional description of Haber's life, and in particular his longtime relationship with Albert Einstein, appears in Vern Thiessen's 2003 play Einstein's Gift. Thiessen describes Haber as a tragic figure who strives unsuccessfully throughout his life to evade both his Jewish ancestry and the moral implications of his scientific contributions. [49]

BBC Radio 4 Afternoon Play has broadcast two plays on the life of Fritz Haber. The description of the first reads: [50] from the Diversity Website:

Bread from the Air, Gold from the Sea as another chemical story (R4, 1415, 16 Feb 01). Fritz Haber found a way of making nitrogen compounds from the air. They have two main uses: fertilizers and explosives. His process enabled Germany to produce vast quantities of armaments. (The second part of the title refers to a process for obtaining gold from sea water. It worked, but didn't pay.) There can be few figures with a more interesting life than Haber, from a biographer's point of view. He made German agriculture independent of Chilean saltpetre during the Great War. He received the Nobel Prize for Chemistry, yet there were moves to strip him of the award because of his work on gas warfare. He pointed out, rightly, that most of Nobel's money had come from armaments and the pursuit of war. After Hitler's rise to power, the government forced Haber to resign from his professorship and research jobs because he was Jewish.

The second play was titled The Greater Good and was first broadcast on 23 October 2008. [51] It was directed by Celia de Wolff and written by Justin Hopper, and starred Anton Lesser as Haber. It explored his work on chemical warfare during World War I and the strain it put on his wife Clara (Lesley Sharp), concluding with her suicide and its cover-up by the authorities. [52] Other cast included Dan Starkey as Haber's research associate Otto Sackur, Stephen Critchlow as Colonel Peterson, Conor Tottenham as Haber's son Hermann, Malcolm Tierney as General Falkenhayn and Janice Acquah as Zinaide.

In 2008, a short film titled Haber depicted Fritz Haber's decision to embark on the gas warfare program and his relationship with his wife. [53] The film was written and directed by Daniel Ragussis. [54] [55]

In November 2008, Haber was again played by Anton Lesser in Einstein and Eddington. [56]

In January 2012, Radiolab aired a segment on Haber, including the invention of the Haber Process, the Second Battle of Ypres, his involvement with Zyklon A, and the death of his wife, Clara. [57]

In December 2013, Haber was the subject of a BBC World Service radio programme: "Why has one of the world's most important scientists been forgotten?". [58]

His and his wife's life, including their relationship with the Einsteins, and Haber's wife's suicide, are featured prominently in the novel A Reunion of Ghosts by Judith Claire Mitchell. The characters are named Lenz and Iris Alter. [59]

Haber's life and relationship to Albert Einstein was portrayed in Genius which aired on National Geographic Channel from 25 April to 27 June 2017. [60]

Scientists and the Second World War - History

NOTE: Items marked with an asterisk (*) have been proofread.
Please contact us ([email protected]) before starting to proofread, to avoid duplication of effort.

27 January 2019

17 March 2013

6 March 2013

  • US NAVAL VESSELS INDEX. (ONI-51-I) (Issued 12-43.) (PDF only)
  • USN NAVAL AUXILIARIES (ONI-51-A) (Issued 9/5/43) (PDF only)
  • U.S. LANDING CRAFT (ONI-54-LC) (Issued 8-4-43) (PDF only)
  • US COAST GUARD VESSELS (ONI-56-CG) (Issued 9/5/43) (PDF only)
  • US NAVAL VESSELS (ONI-54-R) Supplement 4 (Issued 8-4-43) (PDF only)
  • United Kingdom Naval Vessels (ONI 201)
  • Warships of the British Commonwealth(PDF only)
  • Italian Naval Vessels [ONI 202] PDF
  • German Naval Vessels [ONI 204]
  • Standard Classes of Japanese Merchant Ships (ONI-208-J) PDF
  • SHIP SHAPES: Anatomy and Types of Naval Vessels. (ONI-223) (PDF only)
  • Japanese Military Aircraft (ONI-232 ONI-232-S)

Post Mortem No. 1 has been added. (Better copy needed.)

18 February 2013



(PDF copies via links in table)

These booklets, mostly less than fifty pages, contain as much intelligence as could be shared at the time from what had been collected from the sub and/or crews.
This table will be updated as new files are added and bumped to the top of this page.

(We do not have No. 1. A paper copy in good condition or a high quality PDF would be very welcome. Any other serial nos. we don't have, same-same.)

Final Report of Interrogation of Survivors from U-352 Sunk By USCG Icarus on May 9, 1942, in Approximate Postiion Latitude 34.12.04 N., Longitude 76.35 W.

Report of Interrogation of Survivors of U-701 Sunk by U.S. Army Attack Bomber NO. 9-29-322, Unit 296 B.S. on July 7, 1942.

Report of Interrogation of Survivors of U-210 Sunk by HMCS Assiniboine August 6, 1942.

Report of Interrogation of Survivors From U-94 Sunk (by USN PBY Plane and HMCS Oakville) On August 27, 1942.

Report of Interrogation of Survivors From U-162 Sunk (by HM Ships Pathfinder, Vimy, and Quentin) on September 3, 1942.

Report of Interrogation of Survivors From U-595 Grounded and Scuttled Off Cape Khamis, Algeria, November 14, 1942.

Report of Interrogation of Survivors From U-164 Sunk by US PBY On January 6, 1943.

Report of Interrogation of Sole Survivor From U-512 Sunk by US Army Bomber (B-18A) on October 2, 1942.

Report of Interrogation of Survivors From U-606 Sunk by Polish Destoryer Burza and USCG Campbell on February 22, 1943.

15 February 20123

Why the U.S. Government Brought Nazi Scientists to America After World War II

The atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki may have put an end to World War II, but they weren’t the only destructive weaponry developed during the war. From nerve and disease agents to the feared and coveted V-1 and V-2 rockets, Nazi scientists worked on an impressive arsenal. As the war came to a close in 1945, both American and Russian officials began scheming to get that technology for themselves. So it came to pass that 71 years ago today, 88 Nazi scientists arrived in the United States and were promptly put to work for Uncle Sam.

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In the days and weeks after Germany’s surrender, American troops combed the European countryside in search of hidden caches of weaponry to collect. They came across facets of the Nazi war machine that the top brass were shocked to see, writer Annie Jacobsen told NPR’s All Things Considered in 2014. Jacobson wrote about both the mission and the scientists in her book, Operation Paperclip: The Secret Intelligence Program That Brought Nazi Scientists To America.

“One example was they had no idea that Hitler had created this whole arsenal of nerve agents,” Jacobsen says. “They had no idea that Hitler was working on a bubonic plague weapon. That is really where Paperclip began, which was suddenly the Pentagon realizing, ‘Wait a minute, we need these weapons for ourselves.’"

But just studying the weapons wasn't enough, and the U.S. military wasn’t the only country eyeing Nazi scientists—their one-time allies in the Soviet Union were doing the same thing. If the Soviets were going to press their former enemies into service, American military officials didn't want to be left behind. So the U.S. government hatched a plan to bring 88 Nazi scientists captured during the fall of the Nazi Germany back to America and get them back on the job. Only this time, according to History.com, they were working for the U.S. under a project known as “Operation Paperclip.”

While the military did what they could to whitewash the pasts of their “prisoners of peace,” as some of the scientists called themselves, many had serious skeletons in their closets. For example, Wernher von Braun was not just one of the brains behind the V-2 rocket program, but had intimate knowledge of what was going on in the concentration camps. Von Braun himself hand-picked people from horrific places, including Buchenwald concentration camp, to work to the bone building his rockets, Jacobsen tells NPR.

Operation Paperclip was top secret at the time. After all, the devices these men helped design killed many people throughout Europe, not to mention the deaths their government was responsible for on the battlefield and in the concentration camps. Even agents with the Justice Department's Office of Special Investigations, which the U.S. government tasked with hunting down top Nazi officers who went on the lam after the war, were unaware for decades of the extent to which government officials were collaborating with their quarry, Toby Harnden reported for The Telegraph in 2010.

While many of the men who were brought to the U.S. under the program were undoubtedly instrumental in scientific advancements like the Apollo program, they were also supportive and responsible for some of the horrors experienced by victims of the Holocaust. Operation Paperclip has certainly left a questionable legacy. 

About Danny Lewis

Danny Lewis is a multimedia journalist working in print, radio, and illustration. He focuses on stories with a health/science bent and has reported some of his favorite pieces from the prow of a canoe. Danny is based in Brooklyn, NY.

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