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Item 360 - Alan Turing Catalog 469 (Feb 2016)

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(we are no longer accepting bids on this item)
Minimum Bid: $10,000.00
Sold Price: $136,122.00 (includes buyer's premium)


Immensely influential British mathematician, cryptanalyst, and computer scientist (1912–1954) considered the father of theoretical computer science and artificial intelligence. ALS, one page both sides, 5.5 x 7, July 10, 1953. Letter to Maria Greenbaum, the daughter of his psychologist, sending along a brainteaser puzzle. In part: “I hope you may get this before you leave to morrow, as it will give you something to do in the train. It is just to tell you how to do the solitaire puzzle…I find it helps, if I am trying to do the puzzle to use four kinds of pieces like this or better still to use a board with the squares in four colours. Each piece always stays on the same colour until it is taken. You start with only four X's and you must still have [them] on at the end so you must be very careful of them. But there are 12 O’s to be got rid of. One needs to remember this all the time.” Turing sketches two diagrams of the game board and provides the solution with a list of moves. In fine condition. Accompanied by a card illustrating the board and the original mailing envelope addressed in his own hand.

There are close links between logic puzzles of this type, such as chess and solitaire, and the early history of artificial intelligence. Turing used playing these games as examples of potential capabilities of computers, and beginning in the late 1940s he was working on a chess-playing computer program. The present letter was first quoted by Sara Turing in her pioneering 1959 biography of her son, in which she also noted that he ‘normally shirked letter-writing.’ It is also cited in the definitive 1992 biography Alan Turing: The Enigma by Alan Hodges. Vincent Dowd of the BBC put it best in a column on Turing, observing that this letter, a ‘complete lesson in logic from an acknowledged mathematical genius, written in his own hand, is an extraordinary thing to possess.’ Pre-certified PSA/DNA.

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