23/06/2012 08:10 BST | Updated 23/06/2012 11:44 BST

Alan Turing's Birthday: Academic Claims Scientist Didn't Commit Suicide

Alan Turing, the Second World War codebreaker widely regarded as the father of modern computing, may not have committed suicide but died as a result of an accident, an academic has claimed on the 100th anniversary of the scientist's birth.

Evidence gathered after the death of the scientist from cyanide poisoning at the age of 41 in 1954 was "overlooked" and he could have died as a result of inhaling the poison he used in amateur experiments rather than deliberately ingesting it, according to Professor Jack Copeland.

Prof Copeland, director of the The Turing Archive for the History of Computing and author of a new biography of the academic to be published shortly, spoke as events took place around the country to celebrate the centenary of the under-appreciated scientific genius's birth.

"From the records I have been able to obtain, it seems to me very obvious that the inquest was conducted in a very superficial way," he said.

"The coroner didn't really investigate the evidence at all, he just jumped to the conclusion that he committed suicide."

alan turing

One of many statues built in the honour of the legendary scientist and codebreaker

The coroner in Turing's death case ruled he committed suicide "while the balance of his mind was disturbed", adding: "In a man of his type, one never knows what his mental processes are going to do next."

Turing, who was gay, was found guilty of gross indecency with another man in 1952.

To avoid prison, he agreed to receive injections of oestrogen for a year, which were intended to reduce his libido in a process known as "chemical castration".

Meanwhile, Google have marked the legendary codebreaker's 100th birthday by replicating a functioning Turing machine on its homepage.

The machine, the first ever to read and record data, was proposed by the scientist in 1936, and it still considered one of the most groundbreaking pieces of technology ever designed.

Turing's machine would theoretically allow its user to manipulate symbols on a strip of tape fed through the machine, adhering to a table of rules.

Turing, who was key in helping crack German naval codes during World War Two, is commonly believed to be one of the most influential characters in computer science.

google turing machine

Turing is currently the subject of two popular epetitions, with one calling to officially pardon Turing, which has garnered over 30,000 signatures, and another calling for Turing to be on the £10 note, currently occupied by evolutionary biologist Charles Darwin.

In 2009, then Prime Minister Gordon Brown apologised for the treatment of Turing, without pardoning him.

"Alan deserves recognition for his contribution to humankind. For those of us born after 1945, into a Europe which is united, democratic and at peace, it is hard to imagine that our continent was once the theatre of mankind's darkest hour," Brown wrote in the Telegraph.

BLOG: Happy 100th Birthday, Alan Turing