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Collection of letters by Alan Turing found in filing cabinet (theguardian.com)
152 points by synthmeat on Aug 27, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 26 comments



This makes me wonder what remnants we'll have left of the greats of this generation amidst tech juggernauts bound to fall and every URL expiring after only a few months. People forget passwords, the owners of accounts die, hard drives fail, but ephemera like letters are tangible things that can last longer if stored properly. I think in the future they'll just say "x was known to have an account on defunct service Instagram and his profile picture on his private Facebook account has him wearing sunglasses".


It's rather sad that the only thing a trained journalist can find in 150 letters written by a hero of the first order is “I would not like the journey, and I detest America.” - a remark made once by him.

I'd like these letters to be analysed by people who could make some real sense of them and put them into a decent context. Finding a throwaway remark that many have made on the spur of the moment and headlining it is a bit crass.


You can analyze them if you want: https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/search/archives/4f6c3f0c-9a70...

This article is written for a general audience, and there's probably not much else of general interest in them if they're mostly about academics.


All I could find on these archives were summaries of the letters, is there anywhere where we can view the actual documents that are archived (either scanned or OCR)? I admit, I had a hard time navigating that page, so I may have missed something obvious.

Edit: My bad, after reading the Conditions Governing Use I found this: "Photocopies and photographic copies of material in the archive can be supplied for private study purposes only, depending on the condition of the documents." So it looks like these written summaries are all we can get?


this is goddam wonderful, so much better than reading the usual praises around Turing; you get to see who he was talking to and the subject. Makes his passing even more sad.


Terrific - thank you!


"An exchange of letters relating to a teenage prodigy's contribution to linear algebra" [0] would have been a more interesting choice, especially if the article would include some research on Lionel March [1] and his "rebmun algebra".

[0]: https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/data/gb133-tur%2Fadd%2Ftur%2F...

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lionel_March


This would be perfect for Letters of Note, a blog I _highly_ recommend: http://www.lettersofnote.com/ (I have no affiliation with the site)


> I despise America

Sadly it was his own State that killed him in the end.


"detest", not "despise". Small thing I know but accuracy is important.


Fortunately those two words are synonyms, so readers have not been terribly misled.


Hi! Lemme help you out here.

"Detest" and "despise" are not synonyms. To detest is to speak out against; to despise is to look down upon. Their roots come directly from Latin/French. If you detest something, you are issuing speech which indicates that you dislike it. If you despise something, you have observed it and disliked your observation (or, more usually, something about the detail of the observation!)

When people use these words in idioms like, "I despise and detest their actions," they are saying that they have seen the actions, they do not like what they have seen, and they are now speaking out to denounce those actions.


> To detest is to speak out against

Interesting. I've never heard this use. The definitions I've seen of detest are some form of dislike intensely.

Reviewing Merriam-Webster[0], I see there is an obsolete sense of detest that means to curse.

> 1 : to feel intense and often violent antipathy toward : loathe · detests politics · They seem to truly detest each other.

> 2 obsolete : curse, denounce

I can't recall ever having across across the word used in this way in American English. I've only seen the first sense used, and would have interpret someone saying "despise and detest" to be effectively doubling (redundantly) for emphasis, not to distinguish between the two.

[0]: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/detest


An American dictionary in 2017 might reflect different meanings than a British person in the '50s and earlier used.


OED should have citations for these purported meanings, if they exist. Does anyone have access (perhaps through a university library) and can check?


I'm a native English speaker and I have never met anyone who makes this distinction, after having spoken English with many thousands of people in my life.

Etymology doesn't determine meaning.

I'm open to the possibility that in 1950s England these words meant what you say (even though in my native dialect of English they don't), but to argue that you would need to give citations, not etymologies.


You used those 2 words with 1000s of people and noticed a trend? Impressive.

Words mean things. Just because you, and many others don't always observe the minutae of meaning, does not erase it. There are words you, and 1000 other peers, have not learned yet. That does not render them meaningless.


Sure, words mean things. But meaning is a social phenomenon. If you want to prove a word means something, you have to provide citations of it being used with that meaning.


> You used those 2 words with 1000s of people and noticed a trend? Impressive.

That's not what he said.


>"Detest" and "despise" are not synonyms. To detest is to speak out against; to despise is to look down upon. Their roots come directly from Latin/French. If you detest something, you are issuing speech which indicates that you dislike it. If you despise something, you have observed it and disliked your observation (or, more usually, something about the detail of the observation!)

Not for the last 2-3 centuries it is not. For people reading Beowulf in the first edition, maybe.

Detest

1. to feel abhorrence of; hate; dislike intensely. (dictionary.com)

1 to feel intense and often violent antipathy toward : loathe detests politics They seem to truly detest each other. 2 obsolete : curse, denounce (Merriam-Webster)

1. to hate someone or something very much (Cambridge dictionary)

1. Dislike intensely (Oxford dictionary)

>Their roots come directly from Latin/French.

Which is irrelevant as to their current meaning.

Now, we are not that different. My correction is also driven by the same joy of correcting others that makes people learn some obscure obsolete factoid and insist on it as if the whole world is wrong and they are right. The only difference is I'm right :-)


so if someone says "I despise..." then they are destesting.


Even if they are synonyms (which has been gone into great detail below):

It is a 3 word quote. Is it really that hard to get it right? Is it really acceptable to get such a simple quote wrong when writing it down to an audience?

If you quote someone and get it slightly wrong then given a few generations of small modification by others getting it slightly wrong and meanings can change drastically.


Why is this downvoted? It's true.


The site guidelines ask

> Please don't comment about the voting on comments. It never does any good, and it makes boring reading.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html

I don't have any insight as to why this particular comment was down voted. (Edit to add: I suspect it was down voted because it misquotes the source material.) If it's something you're really interested in looking into more in general, I suggest searching HN for other discussions on votes and taking some more time to think about what might cause someone to down vote, whether you agree with the possible reason or not.

As an aside, just because a comment is true doesn't mean it's somehow immune to down votes. Comments in general should be civil and constructive.


My question was entirely rhetorical. I thought it important to clarify that the post was factually correct, and one should not take its font color as an indication otherwise, even though that is usually a sensible assumption regarding downvoted posts that are simple statements of fact.

Incidentally, when did HN guidelines start privileging entertainment value? That is certainly at odds with what I consider the spirit of this community to be.


Well, it's clear that he died of cyanide poisoning. It's been thought that he committed suicide. It's arguable that UK authorities are responsible for that, given his prosecution for homosexuality, and court-ordered estrogen therapy to reduce his sex drive.

Some have further suggested that British Security Services assassinated him.[0,1] Rudy Rucker features that theory in Turing & Burroughs, but has Turing survive. Roger Bristow argued that the FBI assassinated him.[2] I don't believe that any clear evidence has been revealed.

0) http://mentalfloss.com/article/64049/did-alan-turing-inspire...

1) http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2530751/Security-ser...

2) https://www.warhistoryonline.com/war-articles/was-alan-turin...




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