James Madison University

Codebreaker - A Film About Alan Mathison Turing

By: Sandy Jolles
Posted: October 16, 2013

PHOTO: Alan TuringOn November 4, 2013, executive producer Patrick Sammon will introduce the film, Codebreaker, and host a Q&A session hosted by the Computer Science department.

Codebreaker is a documentary-drama based of the life of Alan Turing, the founding father of computer science and artificial intelligence. Codebreaker tracks Turing’s accomplishments, his government persecution, and his untimely death in 1954.

Turing, both a mathematician and cryptologist, played a pivotal role in breaking the German naval Engima code during World War II, and made contributions in many fields including computer sciences, artificial intelligence, computer engineering, biology, and chemistry, and others.

“Some historians assert that the work of Turing and his colleagues dramatically shortened the war, potentially saving thousands or millions of lives in the process,” said Michael Kirkpatrick, assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science, who organized the event.

The film centers on therapy sessions between Dr. Franz Greenbaum, a German Jewish analyst, and Turing during the last 18 months of his life. Through these sessions, based on real events, the film explores Turing’s controversial life. The film includes testimony from people who remember Turing, as well as interviews from high-profile experts in technology including Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak.

Within Codebreaker, Turing’s inspirational life illustrates the importance of working with many different disciplines, and how modern technology has begun to implement some of Turing’s ideas.

“We’re casting a wide net and trying to attract students from a variety of disciplines,” Kirkpatrick said. “Since his work is so interdisciplinary, he can reach so many people from different areas.”

The event will consist of a dialogue, between students and faculty, discussing science and scientists in a larger social context using ethical reasoning. According to Kirkpatrick, the movie exemplifies the vision of the Madison Collaborative: Ethical Reasoning in Action.

“This movie is one illustration of how society can progress, and allows for students to apply some of the ideas of ethical reasoning in asking questions,” Kirkpatrick said.

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PHOTO:Sharon Simmons

The Computer Science department strives to be an intellectual community that continually explores the broad field of computing, applies this knowledge to solve problems in a variety of domains, and engages with the profession and society at large. More >