Our November Fundraiser of the Month, Gareth Halfacree, assembled an incredible fundraising effort to save an important piece of UK’s history.
Photo courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/32835608@N03/
Earlier this month, Gareth Halfacree, an independent supporter of the Bletchley Park Trust launched a campaign to save what is thought to be the world’s most complete collection of Alan Turing’s papers. To keep these papers in the public domain, he launched a JustGiving fundraising page to raise a bid for the papers. It was an astounding effort. And it just goes to show how a single individual/fundraiser can rally together an extraordinary number of people and funding for important causes.
Mathematician, computer scientist, logician and cryptanalyst, Alan Turing is frequently described as “the father of the computer”. Not only that, Turing made what Winston Churchill called the single biggest contribution to Allied victory in the Second World War.
Turing created the Bombe at Bletchley Park, an electromechanical device that many consider the ancestor of the modern computer. It was used to crack messages in the German Enigma code and historians have agreed that the work of Turing and the other codebreakers shortened the war by at least two years, saving countless lives. Tragically, in 1953, aged just 41, Turing took his own life after being criminally prosecuted for his homosexuality and he never received the public recognition that he so richly deserved.
Now, almost sixty years later, a collection of Turing’s work, including his first published paper, his work on artificial intelligence and the foundations of the digital computer are being auctioned by the auction house Christie’s. The guide price for this historical work was set between £300,000 and £500,000 and with Bletchley Park in no financial position to buy the papers, Gareth Halfacree decided to call on the public. The IT journalist asked for volunteers to come together and donate money to the Bletchley Park Trust so that the papers can be bought and then housed where they belong – not tucked away in a private collection – but in a dedicated museum where the public can share, learn from, discuss and build on this important part of the UK’s intellectual heritage. With modern computing owing a debt of gratitude to Turing, the campaign even received a $100,000 (£62,794) donation from Google.
The auction itself took place on 23rd of November, and whilst Bletchley House did not manage to buy the papers, neither did anyone else. So there’s still time and hope for the campaign to be successful – and they could use your help. You can also help in securing these incredible, historical documents by donating to the fundraising page set up to buy this piece of history.
The likelihood is that we will see a second auction soon, but there is also the possibility that Bletchley Park could make a private bid to the seller. With time of the essence, Gareth is calling on members of the public, the media, and giants of the technology industry to come together in not only securing a part of our history, but also in paying tribute to a man that quite simply, shaped the world in which we live today.