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22 November 2012

From Thompson to Turing - genius celebrated in public talk

D'Arcy Thompson's influence on Alan Turing will be explored during at the University of Dundee next week during an event celebrating the mathematical genius and computing pioneer.

Professor Mark Chaplain, Head of Mathematics at Dundee, will deliver a talk, entitled 'Alan Turing: much more than an Enigma' at D'Arcy Thompson Zoology Museum on Tuesday, 27th November.

The event has been organised to mark the recent centenary of Turing's birth. Perhaps best known for helping to break the Enigma code at Bletchley Park during World War II, Turing is also widely acknowledged as the father of computer science and artificial intelligence.

Thompson was the first Professor of Biology at University College Dundee, the precurser to the modern University. A renowned biologist, mathematician and classics scholar, his work inspired Turing to write a seminal paper proposing a theory of pattern formation in biology which is now used widely today with applications to animal coat markings, plant phyllotaxis, shell patterning and cancer growth.

Similar to Thompson, it was Turing's polymathy that enabled him to make such a significant impact that continues to be felt to this day, according to professor Chaplain.

"Even if cracking the Enigma codes had been Turing's only mathematical achievement, it would have been a major contribution to mathematics and computer science," he said. "However, his many mathematical contributions are much more wide-ranging than this and span a broad range of mathematical disciplines.

"For example, he was highly influential in the development of computer science, giving a formalisation of the concepts of "algorithm" and "computation" with the Turing machine, which can be considered a model of a general purpose computer. As such, Turing is widely considered to be the father of computer science and artificial intelligence."

The talk will chart Turing's scientific career, with a particular focus on Thompson's influence on his work.

'Alan Turing: much more than an Enigma' takes place at D'Arcy Thompson Zoology Museum at 5.30pm on Tuesday, 27th November. The event is free and open to all. More information is available by emailing museum@dundee.ac.uk or calling 01382 384310.


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