A Very Mathematical Bear!

Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire, UK is a stately home famous for the codebreaking activities that took place there in the second world war. However, in the middle of the displays documenting the important activities that took place at Bletchley Park, sits a quiet unassuming teddy bear!

This teddy bear is Porgy, a long nosed, glass-eyed, brown bear owned by Alan Turing, the man who cracked the Enigma code and whose work in mathematics was fundamental in the development of the computer.

Contrary to what you might think, Porgy was not a childhood toy. Instead, Turing purchased the teddy bear for himself when he was a student and professor at Cambridge University, and he would sit Porgy in a chair whilst he practised his lectures in front him.  Today, Porgy resides in a glass case, looking resplendent in a black, white, and blue dungarees adorned with red buttons, made by Turing’s sister-in-law Beryl.

Alan Turing was a remarkable man. His most famous work, cracking the Enigma Code, is said to have changed the course of the war and is estimated to have saved as many as two million lives whilst his work in mathematics underpinned the development of the world’s first computers and laid the groundwork for the development of artificial intelligent.  

Unfortunately, Turing’s private life ended in tragedy. After reporting a burglary at his flat in 1952, Turing was charged with gross indecency after he admitted he was in a relationship with another man. He was subsequently barred from working at the Government Communications Headquarters, GCHQ and died two years later, aged just 41 after eating an apple laced with cyanide.

Turing's work at Bletchley Park remained top secret until the mid-70s. So confidential was his work that even his family were unaware of his contribution to the war effect until long after his death when they received a government letter detailing the impact of his work.

In 2009, Gordon Brown issued an apology to Alan Turing on behalf of the UK Government and in 2013, Turing received a posthumous royal pardon almost 60 years after his conviction for gross indecency.

In recognition of his immense contribution to computer science, artificial intelligence and Britain’s war effort, Turing’s image now features on the UK’s £50 notes whilst in Bletchley Park, Porgy the teddy bear also serves as a reminder of this remarkable man whose life continues to shape the world we live in today.

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