This year a series of events around the world will celebrate the work of Alan Turing, the father of the modern computer, as the 100th anniversary of his birthday approaches on June 23. In a book chapter that will be published later this year, mathematician Robert Soare, the founding chairman of the University of Chicago’s computer science department, will propose that Turing’s achievement was artistic as well as scientific.
Soare, the Paul Snowden Russell Distinguished Service Professor in Computer Science and Mathematics, has played a leading role in computability theory — the field that Turing founded and which is devoted to determining how effectively complex mathematical problems can be solved. InMathematical Logic in the 20th Century, Gerald Sacks ranked a paper Soare published in the Annals of Mathematics as one of the century’s 31 most important papers in mathematical logic, including computability theory.
Turing is remembered for developing concepts that made modern computers possible, and for leading complex military decoding efforts that proved critical in World War II. But Soare argues that Turing’s landmark 1936 paper on computability theory contains beauty as well as scientific breakthroughs. He compares the concepts in that paper to Michelangelo’s statue,David. “Michelangelo and Turing both completely transcended conventional approaches. They created something completely new from their own visions, something which went far beyond the achievements of their contemporaries,” Soare writes.
Soare further notes that the work of both men emphasized the human form. “Michelangelo brought out the human form in his statues and the Sistine ceiling. Turing invented a system which simulates how a human being computes, and then demonstrated that his creation did capture human computing,” he wrote.
Soare’s chapter, titled “Turing and Michelangelo: The Art of Classical Computability,” will appear inAlan Turing — His Work and Impact,” edited by Barry Cooper and Jan van Leeuwen. He will contribute two other invited works on Turing and computability to volumes that also will be published this year, as will his latest book, Computability Theory and Applications: The Art of Classical Computability.
Computer scientist sees artistic side to father of computer | UChicago News.