Joined: 25 Jul 2005 Posts: 15480 Location: St. Pauls, Bristol, England
Posted: Thu Jul 24, 2008 10:43 am Post subject: Bletchley Park - GCHQ Anti-Nazi history buried
Call to save Britain's Nazi code-breaking centre
Thu Jul 24, 2008 9:29am BST
By Michael Holden
LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Britain's top computer scientists called on Thursday for action to be taken to save Bletchley Park, the code-breaking centre that played a crucial role decrypting German messages during World War Two.
The scientists say Bletchley, a country house 25 miles north of London, is falling into disrepair and will decay further unless it receives much-needed investment. They want it properly funded and turned into a National Museum of Computing.
"As a nation, we cannot allow this crucial and unique piece of British and world heritage to be neglected in this way," the 97 experts and top university computer academics said in a letter to the Times newspaper.
"The future of the site, buildings, resources and equipment at Bletchley Park must be preserved for future generations by providing long-term financial backing."
The cryptographers who worked at the site, once the most secret place in Britain, are credited with helping to shorten World War Two by up to two years and save countless lives by deciphering around 3,000 German military messages a day.
Most famously, a team working under mathematician Alan Turing cracked the Nazi's Enigma code, which the Germans regarded as unbreakable.
Scientists at Bletchley also designed and developed Colossus, a truck-sized machine which was one of the world's first programmable electronic computers.
After the war, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill ordered that the Colossus computers and 200 Bombe machines, used to crack the Enigma code, be destroyed to keep them secret from the Soviet Union.
Bletchley's existence only came to light in the 1970s when the veil of secrecy was lifted and its role in the war revealed.
In their letter, the scientists said that many of the huts where the cryptographers worked are now in a terrible state of disrepair.
Although the site is open visitors as a museum, it is run by a trust and receives no external funding.
"Is it too much to ask that Bletchley Park be provided with the same financial stability as some of our other great museums such as the Imperial War Museum, the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum?" the letter asked.
Pretty good movie - quite a few factual inaccuracies about code breaking, but surprisingly the letter to Churchill, Joan Clarke relationship, his long distance running ability and his childhood friend - all essentially true!
Philosophy professor Jack Copeland has questioned various aspects of the coroner's historical verdict, suggesting the alternative explanation of the accidental inhalation of cyanide fumes from an apparatus for gold electroplating spoons, using potassium cyanide to dissolve the gold, which Turing had set up in his tiny spare room. Copeland notes that the autopsy findings were more consistent with inhalation than with ingestion of the poison. Turing also habitually ate an apple before bed, and it was not unusual for it to be discarded half-eaten. In addition, Turing had reportedly borne his legal setbacks and hormone treatment (which had been discontinued a year previously) "with good humour" and had shown no sign of despondency prior to his death, in fact, setting down a list of tasks he intended to complete upon return to his office after the holiday weekend.
Cf with movie and popular idea that Turing could not function after his hormone treatment.
The movie does actually stress the importance of absolute secrecy - many people were warned they faced a firing squad if they ever, ever breathed a word of their work. And if any part of the movie is to be believed the one thing you do take away is that by the early 1950s, he was disliked by many people, that he did not fit in and was considered a "risk" because of his homosexuality.
Turing's conviction led to the removal of his security clearance and barred him from continuing with his cryptographic consultancy for the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the British signals intelligence agency that had evolved from GC&CS in 1946 (though he kept his academic job). He was denied entry into the United States after his conviction in 1952, but was free to visit other European countries, even though this was viewed by some as a security risk. At the time, there was acute public anxiety about homosexual entrapment of spies by Soviet agents, because of the recent exposure of the first two members of the Cambridge Five, Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean, as KGB double agents. Turing was never accused of espionage, but in common with all who had worked at Bletchley Park, he was prevented by the Official Secrets Act from discussing his war work.
Consider his master work, the "universal computing machine" - original paper in 1936, his practical work on the "Bombs" - originally developed by the Poles and his work on the Automatic Computing Engine developed in 1945 and presented to NPL in 1946. The Pilot ACE was still being implemented in the early 1950s. "Pilot ACE 2 was installed at the Royal Radar Establishment (RRE) at Malvern and ran its first program in late 1952. It was used to calculate aircraft trajectories from radar data, but details of it are still secret." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Automatic_Computing_Engine
In the context of David Kelly, death of other inventors, the microbiologists after 9/11 Anthrax... there is a higher probability that there was a more sinister reason for his death.
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