Alan Turing as a Youth

Gay British Mathematician and Computer Scientist

Many years ago, in 1936 – before the Second World War – Alan Turing created the first "binary" computer language using "ones" and "zeros." With this new "Digital Technology," he helped the British Government break a secret code – called "Enigma" – that was being used by some verybad people – called “Nazis” – who were trying to take over the

world. By breaking the Enigma Code, Alan Turing helped the British Government and its Allies – including the United States – win World War II. Ever since then, people have been using Digital Technology. In fact, every type of digital device we see and touch in our world today can be traced back to Alan Turing’s work so many years ago. Many people have forgotten who Alan Turing was – or they were never told about him – because the work to break the Enigma Code was kept a secret. In the 1950s Alan Turing was arrested for being a gay man because that was considered illegal. Today, he is remembered as a hero for what he did to help save the world and for making life better through digital devices like computers, tablets, and cellphones.


Responsive Check-In

Before discussing with students why LGBTQ people in history have not been celebrated as heroes, affirm that your classroom is a safe space where everyone can talk about themselves and their families. Children should hear that your space is a place where friends listen to one another without judgment and that each of them should feel comfortable with who they are, without worrying about what others may think about them.

Illinois Social Studies Standards | History

SS.H.1.K: Compare life in the past with life today.

SS.H.1.1: Create a chronological sequence of multiple events.

SS.H.2.1: Describe individuals and groups who have shaped a significant historical change.

SS.H.3.1: Compare perspectives of people in the past to those of people in the present.

SS.H.2.2 Compare individuals and groups who have shaped a significant historical change.

Illinois Social Science Standards | Civics

SS.CV.1.2: Explain what governments are and some of their functions (e.g. making and enforcing laws, protecting citizens, and collecting taxes).

Related Subjects/Fields

Social Sciences, STEM & Medicine, Inventor, World History, Computer, Science, Mathematics


Level 1: Contributions Discussion

  • Did you know about Alan Turing before today?

  • What did he invent?

  • When did he do his work?

  • What was his impact on World War II?

  • How has his work changed the world?

  • What kinds of obstacles did he face?

  • How can we see Alan Turing’s work today?

Graphic of Binary Code