While working on his PhD, Alan Turing wrote the paper, 'On computable numbers, with an application to the Entscheidungsproblem'. (If you are so inclined, check out a pdf of the original 1936 paper here.) In this paper, Turing essentially lays out the building blocks of the modern computer. He calls them 'computing machines'.
During WWII, Turing was hired by the British government to work on cracking German messages encoded using the Engima machine. Unlike previously developed encryption methods, the Engima changed its encryption settings every day, making it impossible to successfully check all combinations before the settings were recalibrated at midnight.
To solve this problem, Turing set out to build the first computing machine (with Gordon Welchman) that would check millions of possible combinations of settings. This invention came to be known as the bombe and was used to track the location of German troops, ships, and U-boats during WWII. Due to security concerns, this project was kept completely secret from the public until the 1970s, with all the details released in the 1990s.
Overall, the film is an interesting peek into the long-secret world of cryptography during WWII. The cast, fashion, and sets create a rich world at Bletchley Park. As the credits rolled I was left wanting to know even more about these amazing people and the projects they tackled together.
After seeing the movie, I started looking more into Turing and Clarke's backgrounds and research. It started with a visit to Netflix, where you can watch an interesting documentary Codebreaker: The Story of Alan Turing, released this year. Following the war, Turing developed designs for the first stored-program computer and explored the concept of artificial intelligence. He asked the question, “Can machines think?” in his seminal 1950 work, 'Computing Machinery and Intelligence'. From 1952 until his suicide in 1954, he focused his efforts on mathematics in biology. Specifically, he was interested in pattern formation (i.e. leaf patterns or how the number of fingers is determined). His predictions were later confirmed upon the discovery of various patterning genes in the later half of the 20th century.
Clarke's work took a slightly different turn and following the war she went on to become a celebrated numismatist in Scotland. She rarely spoke about her involvement in the work at Bletchley Park. To learn more about Clarke and other women working at Bletchley Park, check out Kerry Howard's website and upcoming book.