I read in today’s Guardian that there was an auction today of Alan Turing’s papers. While I was pleased to see that Google had donated $100,000 to the bid of Bletchley Park to keep the papers for the nation, I couldn’t help but feel disheartened by the thought that Turing’s papers could potentially disappear into a private collection, to be gazed upon by a single, wealthy individual, quite possibly hailing from Silicon Valley.
Turing was an important individual in the history of not only computing, but in the fact that Nazi Germany was eventually defeated by the Allies. And Britain repaid that debt by persecuting him because he was gay, with the result that Turing committed suicide by eating an apple laced with cyanide.
I can’t help feeling that Turing’s papers should have been acquired for the nation and humanity at large. Once again, we seem to understand only the price of everything and the value of nothing.
Perhaps all is not lost; if the new owner will arrange for the papers to be made available online, then something may come out of this. Perhaps the Complete Works of Charles Darwin Online can serve as a model here.