On April 13, 2015, auction house Bonhams New York is slated to auction off a 56-page handwritten notebook that mathematician Alan Turing kept in 1942 during the time that he was working at Bletchley Park, trying to break the Enigma Code. Bonhams is expecting the notebook to sell for at least seven figures due in part to The Imitation Game, the critically acclaimed film loosely based on Alan Turing’s life.
Made up of 56 pages contained in a simple notebook bought from a stationers in Cambridge, UK, it is almost certainly the only extensive autograph manuscript by Turing in existence, and has never been seen in public. From internal evidence, it dates from 1942 when he was working at Bletchley Park to break the German Enigma Code, and provides remarkable insight into the thought process of a genius. As he writes in his distinctive hand: “The Leibniz notation dx/dy I find extremely difficult to understand in spite of it having been the one I understood the best once! It certainly implies that some relation between x and y has been laid down eg, y=x2+3x…”. …Cassandra Hatton, Senior Specialist in Fine Books and Manuscripts and the History of Science at Bonhams said, “This manuscript dates from the time when Turing was engaged in the crucial task of breaking the Enigma Code. Its mathematical content gives an extraordinary insight into the working mind of one of the greatest luminaries of the 20th century. This is quite simply one of the most extraordinary pieces I have ever had the privilege to handle.”
Turing is said to have committed suicide in 1954 due to the effects of the chemical castration drugs he was given in lieu of going to prison for his homosexuality, a crime for which he was given a Royal Pardon in 2014. The notebook was put up for auction by Turing’s friend and fellow mathematician Robin Gandy, to whom Turing bequeathed much of his estate. The profits of the sale will be donated to charity.
image via Daily Mail