Data science

£42m Alan Turing Institute for Data Science follows royal pardon

Brian McKenna

The government is following up the Christmas Eve royal pardon granted to Alan Turing for his 1952 homosexuality conviction with a £42m investment in a new ‘data science’ research institute.

Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne announced the investment in yesterday’s Budget.

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Universities and science minister David Willetts said: “Creating a world-class institute dedicated to data science will secure the UK’s place as a global leader in this field and bring significant future benefits to the UK’s economy and society. The pioneering work carried out at the institute will be a fitting tribute to Alan Turing.”

Turing is best known for his role in the code-breaking effort at Bletchley Park, which played a significant part in the Allied victory in the Second World War. He and his colleagues marshalled computing machines called Bombes against the German Enigma machine codes. Their effort diminished the German U-boat threat in the North Atlantic.

Turing also made a breakthrough against a German enciphering machine that was more sophisticated than Enigma, named Tunny by the British. The algorithms used to make inroads on Tunny were incorporated into the construction of Tommy Flowers’ Colossus computer.

Turing’s post-war work on mathematical biology had echoes of big data analytics in the field today, with its issuance in a pattern formation hypothesis regarding morphogenesis, the origination and development of the shape of any organism, based on the Finobacci numbers sequence.

The Alan Turing Institute for Data Science will receive a government investment of £42 million over five years. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has not yet decided on a location for the institute, which BIS said will collaborate with the Open Data Institute, Catapult Network, Archer and the Hartree Centre.

Alan Turing was given a posthumous pardon under the Royal Prerogative of Mercy by the Queen in December 2013, following a request from justice secretary Chris Grayling.


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