The interest in the life and times of Alan Turing seems to be maintaining its resonance, with the news of a rare letter that is due to be auctioned by Bonhams later this month. Contained in the letter is advice on playing solitaire, with initial valuations estimating the find to be worth as much as £60,000 to its owner, Maria Summerscale.
Pointers on solitaire
Ms Summerscale, now 70-years-old, became the recipient of the letter way back in 1953 when she was still a young child. The contents of the letter include advice and pointers from the highly intelligent Turing on ways to succeed at the marbles game of solitaire.
As a child, Ms Summerscale came into contact with Turing after her father, Franz Greenbaum, provided treatment for him, in his professional role of psychiatrist. That was around the time that the German codebreaker had been prosecuted for gross indecency.
Turing visited the family for dinner on a couple of occasions and saw the child playing solitaire. On one occasion she mentioned that she was about to go on holiday and would be taking the game along with her. The letter arrived just before she departed.
Turing died in 1954
The artefact may well be one of the last communications that Turing wrote, given that he died the following year from cyanide poisoning. At the time his death was deemed to be a suicide, although the facts could equally be consistent with accidental poisoning.
Wartime hero to prosecution
Alan Mathison Turing's life and times have come into the public eye over the last few years. The British computer scientist, mathematician and especially important cryptanalyst, was a key member of the wartime codebreaking team based at Bletchley Park.
Turing's latter years were not particularly pleasant for him, given that he was prosecuted in 1952 for engaging in homosexual acts, at a time when such was deemed to be a criminal offence in the United Kingdom. Instead of a prison sentence, Turing was given the 'treatment' of chemical castration via oestrogen injections. He died in 1954.
After an internet campaign in 2009, Turing's case was re-opened and the Prime Minister at the time, Gordon Brown, issued an official apology on the British government's behalf at his treatment. In 2013, the Queen of England, Elizabeth II issued Turing with a posthumous pardon.
The auction is due to be held on 24th June, with Ms Summerscale seemingly set to receive an unexpectedly generous windfall, as her own expectations of the value of the letter were closer to a few hundred pounds. #Science #Games