Ruth Brandt

the inspiration behind Ruth Brandt’s short story, ‘Stop All The Clocks’

Many aspects of Alan Turing’s life might inspire fiction writers, including the need for total secrecy surrounding his work breaking the Enigma Code; his persecution for being homosexual; and the controversy surrounding his tragic death, which robbed science of a genius. But as a writer who holds a BSc in mathematics and physics, it was the breadth of Alan Turing’s interests and studies that most intrigued me. Among other passions, he was a marathon runner, chess player, mathematician, cryptographer, artificial intelligence theoretician and a biologist. So what was it that set a man, who was obviously capable of innovative thinking and research in almost any area of mathematics and science, down the particular routes of study and activity he chose? In trying to answer that question, my researches took me back to his school days and his friendship with Christopher Morcom. In Morcom Turing found for the first time someone who was capable of intellectual thought at an equal level; a real meeting of minds. Morcom’s early death deeply upset Turing and set him thinking about the mind’s processes. So was it this that led to Turing becoming the father of the computer age?

My story ‘Stop All The Clocks’ takes this event as a possible explanation for the paths Turing chose to follow. The title comes from the poem by another homosexual W H Auden, describing the crippling effect of the death of a loved one, and it ties in with Turing’s interest while at school in Einstein’s Special Theory of  Relativity, which says that time is not constant.

The narrator of my story is entirely fictional, however, the views he expresses reflect those in Turing’s school reports and teachers’ letters. In particular, I have used the words Morcom’s housemaster used to explain his death to the boys in his house. Similarly some of Turing’s dialogue is taken from his letters, including one he wrote to Morcom’s mother. Donald Eperson was a real person, as indeed was Turing, and I apologise if I have in any way misrepresented them in telling this story.

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