Alan Mathison Turing (1912-1954) was a British mathematician and a pioneer in the field of computer science and what is now known as Artificial Intelligence. Very early in WWII he made essential contributions in breaking the German encryption machine known as the "enigma." The value of this contribution is incalculable; certainly hundreds of thousands of lives were kept out of harm's way. From about 1940 onward British intelligence, because of Turing's work, were able to monitor all German transmissions; this was one of the key factors in Britain successfully engaging the Luftwaffe in the "Battle of Britain" and enabled the Admiralty to track and hunt German U boats and the surface fleet. Back in civilian life in the late 1940's, he devised the well known concept of a "Turing Machine," in which he stated that a device would have succeeded in "becoming intelligent" if the human interacting with it could not tell if it was a machine or another human. Sadly, he committed suicide after his homosexual activities became known, that then being a felonious crime in Britain.
The award that bears his name, considered the "Nobel Prize" of computing, is currently sponsored by the Intel Corporation with a prize of $100,000 and is given annually by the Association for Computing Machinery for someone who has made lasting and technically important contributions to the field of computer science.