Alan Turing Memorial - History and Facts | History Hit

Alan Turing Memorial

Manchester, United Kingdom

Lily Johnson

21 Apr 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Alan Turing Memorial

The Alan Turing Memorial in central Manchester celebrates one of Britain’s most unsung heroes. During World War Two, Turing helped to break the Enigma code and subsequently saved millions of lives, yet due to his homosexuality was treated as a criminal for many years. Situated in Sackville Gardens, the memorial invites quiet reflection into Britain’s LGBTQ past, and those who for a long time were silenced from the historical record.

The Alan Turing Memorial history

Throughout his life, Alan Turing made remarkable contributions to the world of mathematics, logic, cryptanalysis and the future realms of computer science. In 1938, he joined the Government Code and Cypher School, and moved to Bletchley Park at the outbreak of World War Two the following year. 

With his team in Hut 8 he designed a code-breaking machine known as the Bombe, and by 1942 was breaking more than 84,000 intercepted messages per month. This intelligence is thought to have significantly shortened the length of the war by 2 years, likely saving the lives of 14 million people. He was awarded an OBE and elected a fellow to the Royal Society of London. 

In 1952, homosexuality was still a crime under UK law, and in March of that year Turing was convicted of ‘gross indecency’ or in other words, being homosexual. He was given a criminal record and forced to undergo 12 months of hormone ‘therapy’, following which he moved to Manchester and began undertaking groundbreaking research into artificial life.

In the middle of this work however, Turing was found dead in his home from cyanide poisoning. Though many believe he committed suicide, it is still unknown what exactly happened. 

On 23 June 2001, the Alan Turing Memorial was installed in Sackville Gardens on what would have been his 89th birthday. The statue was cast in China following an enormous fundraising effort over the course of a year, surmounting to a total of £16,000 raised.

The Memorial today

Today the Alan Turing Memorial draws visitors from far and wide to honour the great man it was made for. The memorial features a bronze statue of Turing sitting on a bench holding an apple. 

The words, ‘Alan Mathison Turing 1912–1954’ are inscribed on the bench, with the motto ‘Founder of Computer Science’ written in a perceived enigma code. A plaque sits at his feet that reads the words: ‘Mathematician, Logician, Wartime Codebreaker, Victim of Prejudice’, and on the pavement is a mosaic LGBTQ flag.

Bouquets of flowers are often draped around his bronze likeness, particularly on the anniversary of his birth, and he is aptly placed between Canal Street, where Manchester’s gay village is situated, and the University of Manchester.

Getting to the Alan Turing Memorial 

The Memorial is located in Sackville Gardens in central Manchester and is a 10-minute walk from Manchester Piccadilly Station. Its closest bus stop is the Sackville Gardens Stop directly next to the park, and the closest major stop is Minshull Street South, a 4-minute walk away. Parking is available all over the city, with the closest to Sackville Gardens being the NCP Car Park Manchester Sackville Street, a 1-minute walk away.