The “father” of the modern computer and artificial intelligence – English mathematician, logician and code breaker Alan Turing – had a short life and a tragic death. The 100th birthday of his birth on June 23, 1912, will be marked by the Science and Technology Ministry by holding a competition among teenagers, who are asked to extract facts about Turing from a code of 500 million binary digits.

Information for participating in the competition can be obtained – in Hebrew only – at the ministry’s website at www.most.gov.il/turing.

Turing committed suicide in 1954 two weeks before his 42nd birthday and two years after he was criminally prosecuted by the government for homosexual acts that were still illegal in the United Kingdom. Considered the “Einstein” of computing, Turing was forced to undergo chemical castration through female hormones to avoid being sent to prison, but in 2009, then-prime minister Gordon Brown apologized to him posthumously.

He developed the Turing machine, which led to better understanding of the terms “computation” and “algorithm” and led to the development of the modern computer decades later. During the Second World War, he worked for the British government’s project to analyze encryption of the German Navy.

Over the coming two months, high school pupils will for the first time be challenged to find hidden data in the 500 million binary digits of the mathematical concept of pi.

Events to mark the anniversary of the birth of Turing have been and will be held in Israel and around the world. The ministry and Tel Aviv University profs. Nahum Dershowitz and Lior Wolf, who are members of the Turing Centennial Year committee in Israel, decided to focus on Turing’s contributions to the victory over Germany by working on the German code.

Science and Technology Minister Prof. Daniel Herschkowitz said that also today, encryption is very important in cyber wars. “It is very important for young people to deal in codes as a contribution to the future of Israel,” he said.

The top three winners will receive computer tablets and a rare visit to WEIZAC, one of the world’s first computers, which was built in 1954-55 at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot and was operational until the end of 1963. They will also be invited to present their ideas or projects to a forum of senior computer scientists.

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