Social Events

A Celebration of Alan Turing on his 110th Birthday

Ingrid Daubechies Auditorium/2-IDA (162 5th Avenue)

Ingrid Daubechies Auditorium/2-IDA

162 5th Avenue


Pride@SF, the LGBTQIA Employee Resource Group, cordially invites Simons Foundation community members to attend a celebration of Alan Turing, whose life’s work provided the intellectual underpinnings of much of what we do at Flatiron day to day, on the occasion of what would have been his 110th birthday.  This event will feature two brief talks, one by CCN associate research scientist Siavash Golkar on Turing’s contributions to computer science, and one by CCB Flatiron Research Fellow Pearson Miller on Turing’s contributions to computational biology.  The talks will be followed by gay donuts and refreshments on the second floor promenade.

Siavash Golkar will talk about Turing's seminal 1936 paper, “On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem [Decision Problem],” in its historical context and how it is viewed today, including how it can be considered as both an end and a new beginning. Turing's goal was to show that the predominant thinking about computation at the time was incorrect. In doing so, he actually laid the foundations of what we now call computer science. Siavash will go over Turing's ingenious yet extremely simple constructions (finite automata and the a-machine) and arguments, and time permitting discuss how they are still relevant today.

Turing's final paper, "The chemical basis of morphogenesis", is now commonly regarded as a major inflection point in the progress of biology. The essential problem in developmental biology, then as well as now, is how an organism can transition from simple to progressively more complex shapes and structures. Pearson Miller will speak on Turing’s radical solution to this problem, detailing how simple rules for chemical interactions could give rise to the spontaneous emergence of complex patterns. The crux of his theory lay in the paradoxical result that diffusion need not always smooth out local differences in concentration. In showing that under certain circumstances diffusive motion actually promotes spatial heterogeneity, he laid the groundwork for modern understanding of diffusion-driven instabilities. More broadly, the impact of his work lies in the idea that biological systems do not always need to build from a blueprint - the Turing patterns which now carry his name are a paradigm for a broader notion of self-organization within biology and beyond. 

Alan Mathison Turing, June 23, 1912 - June 7, 1954, widely considered to be the father of computer science, was a British mathematician and logician who made major contributions to mathematics, cryptography and cryptoanalysis, logic, philosophy, and computational biology, including his work as a member of the famous WWII Bletchley Park team which was instrumental in deciphering German military codes and for which he was made an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.  Despite his contributions to British intellectual and public life, Turing was convicted and tried for “gross indecency,” a euphemism for homosexuality, by the British government in 1952 for which he was sentenced to 12 months of conversion therapy in the form of hormone “treatments.” With a criminal record, Turing was denied future government work, and he died under suspicious circumstances in June 1954.  British prime minister Gordon Brown, speaking on behalf of the British government, apologized for Turing’s treatment in 2009, and Turing was granted a royal pardon by Queen Elizabeth II in 2013. Turing’s experiences in WWII were dramatized in the Academy Award winning 2014 film, The Imitation Game, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Turing, which was based on Andrew Hodges’ 1983 book, Alan Turing: The Enigma.

Organized by

Pride@SF, the LGBTQIA+ ERG