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Founder of Computer Science Alan Turing’s Stargazing in Guildford

Local historian Stan Newman has been looking into the time spent in Guildford by Alan Turing when he was schoolboy.

The statue of Alan Turing at the University of Surrey.

There is a blue plaque on the wall of 22 Ennismore Avenue in Guildford stating it was “the family home of Alan M Turing (1912-1954) founder of computer science”.

It is well known that Alan Turing was largely responsible for the modern computer. He also helped to crack German codes while working at Bletchley Park during the Second World War.

Recently there has been speculation locally that Turing never actually lived in Guildford.

The blue plaque to Alan Turing at 22 Ennismore Avenue, Guildford.

The plaque was unveiled in July 1988 by the actor Derek Jacobi, who had appeared as Alan Turing in the play Breaking the Code. It had premiered at Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud Theatre and later transferred to London where it received good reviews and had an extended run before going on to be performed in the USA. For his performance, Jacobi was nominate for a Tony award.

Guildford resident Amanda Littleboy campaigned for the blue plaque for Turing after seeing the play. She found fuding for the project through The Guildford Society, that, at the time, was very interested to learn of such an eminent resident.

Alan Turing’s parents moved to Guildford in 1927 when they bought number 8 Ennismore Avenue, off London Road, opposite Stoke Park. When further houses were built in the avenue, all the homes were re-numbered and number 8 became number 22.

Alan Turing with members of his family.

Turing was aged 15 when his family took up residence in Guildford. At that time he was a boarder at Sherborne public school in Dorset, but naturally came home for holidays and some weekends.

He had a keen interest in astronomy and soon discovered that the night sky over Guildford was perfect for stargazing. He regularly studied the night sky from the garden in Ennismore Avenue, rather than from an atlas of the heavens.

This picture of Alan Turing is believed to have been taken in North Street, Guildford.

He would get up up at 4am to mark stars that were not visible on winter evenings, often waking his mother in the process.

Mrs Hesketh, who was the owner of the house in 1988, remembers the wonderful feeling she experienced when gazing at the night sky from the same spot where Turing would have stood when he was a young man.

After Turing had gained a scholarship to King’s College, Cambridge, in 1931, he most definitely spent less time in Guildford. His parents moved from Ennismore Avenue in 1939 into the centre of Guildford. His father died in the late 1940s, while his mother remained in Guildford until her death in the 1970s.

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One Response to Founder of Computer Science Alan Turing’s Stargazing in Guildford

  1. Di Stiff Reply

    December 7, 2012 at 12:38 pm

    Great article. I recently went to the launch of the LGBT History Month campaign at Bletchley Park; the theme for 2013 will be based on Alan Turing. There’s not much mentioned about his Surrey connections, so Surrey History Centre will be featuring Turing for their annual LGBT History Month foyer display throughout February. Thanks for giving me permission use your article as part of the display so people can sit and read it and perhaps learn more about Turing and indeed the Guildford Dragon News.

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