Alan Turing Papers (Additional)

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

A file of correspondence and papers accumulated by Alan Turing in relation to his work in the University's Computing Machine Laboratory. The material dates from March 1949 until just before Turing's death in June 1954. It is assumed to comprise an important segment of his 'official' correspondence during this period, although it is unlikely to constitute the entirety of his CML correspondence.

The letters sent to Turing include comments on his published articles, and in some cases, unpublished research, as well as requests to lecture, attend conferences, supply drafts or offprints of his articles, and generally give advice. A number of letters are requests to view or use the Mark I/Ferranti Mark I computers, which were Turing's administrative responsibility as deputy director of the CML.

In a few cases, there is extended correspondence between Turing and some individuals about particular issues; for example, William Boone, an American academic, who was reviewing Turing's article "The word problem in semigroups with cancellation" and Barbara Worsley, a Canadian student, who had studied with Turing in the UK and later continued her research at the University of Toronto. Some of Turing's more well-known peers and associates are also represented including: SP Frankel, Maurice Wilkes, Christopher Strachey, Robin Gandy, Vivian Bowden, JBS Haldane, Gilbert Ryle, Alonzo Church, Oskar Morgenstern, Sir Eric Jones, and HSM Coxeter. There is very little in the way of personal correspondence, and no letters from Turing family members. The correspondence includes discussion primarily of Turing's research on chemical morphogenesis in plants, but also his articles on "The word problem in semigroups with cancellation', "Some calculations of the Riemann Zeta-function", "Computing machinery and intelligence" and two "popular" essays on "Digital computers applied to games" [although parts of this essay were written by others], and "Solvable and unsolvable problems".

Turing's copy letters in this file are almost entirely type-written, and mainly addressed from the Computing Machine Laboratory. They are not usually initialled, and it is assumed most were dictated by Turing to his secretary Miss S J Wagstaff. In a few cases, Turing has annotated letters with marginal comments etc.

Administrative / Biographical History

Alan Turing (1912-1954) made two outstandingly original contributions to the development of computer science: his paper On Computable Numbers (1936) outlined a theoretical universal machine (or Turing machine), an idea which was more fully developed in his brilliant design for the Automatic Computing Engine (ACE), built after the Second World War at the National Physical Laboratory. He was also an important figure in the Colossus codebreaking operations at Bletchley Park during the War; made contributions to programming the Manchester University Mark I computer in the early 1950s; researched the subject of morphogenesis in plants at Manchester University; and from time to time explored the problem of machine intelligence.


The correspondence is arranged chronologically (by the last date in the sequence of letters).

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open to any accredited reader, unless otherwise stated.

The collection includes material which is subject to the Data Protection Act 1998. Under Section 33 of the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA), The University of Manchester Library (UML) holds the right to process personal data for research purposes. The Data Protection (Processing of Sensitive Personal Data) Order 2000 enables the UML to process sensitive personal data for research purposes. In accordance with the DPA, UML has made every attempt to ensure that all personal and sensitive personal data has been processed fairly, lawfully and accurately. Users of the archive are expected to comply with the Data Protection Act 1998, and will be required to sign a form acknowledging that they will abide by the requirements of the Act in any further processing of the material by themselves.

Open parts of this collection, and the catalogue descriptions, may contain personal data about living individuals. Some items in this collection may be closed to public inspection in line with the requirements of the DPA. Restrictions/closures of specific items will be indicated in the catalogue.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies and photographic copies of material in the archive can be supplied for private study purposes only, depending on the condition of the documents.

A number of items within the archive remain within copyright under the terms of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988; it is the responsibility of users to obtain the copyright holder's permission for reproduction of copyright material for purposes other than research or private study.

Prior written permission must be obtained from the Library for publication or reproduction of any material within the archive. Please contact the Head of Special Collections, John Rylands Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 3EH.

Custodial History

The file appears to have been retained at the Mathematical Computing Laboratory after Turing's death in June 1954. At some point, it was then transferred to the Department of Computer Science (later School of Computer Science), where it was kept in a storeroom in the Kilburn Building. The file was found in May 2016 by Professor Jim Miles during a reorganisation of the storeroom.


None expected.

Related Material

The Library's main Turing collection (NAHC/TUR) is an artificial collection, comprising offprints of Turing's published papers, miscellaneous manuscripts, and material relating to Turing. See also the University of Manchester. Department of Computing Science collection (GB 133 NAHC/MUC), which includes material on the Mark I and Ferranti Mark I .

Cambridge University, King's College Archive Centre holds the main collection of Turing's correspondence and papers, 1923-54 (ref.: GB 272 PP/AMT). The Turing Digital Archive includes scans of the King's collection, and some of these are related to material in this collection.


Andrew Hodges, Alan Turing: the enigma (Princeton, 2012 ed.)  is the standard biography, and has been used in compiling this catalogue.

Geographical Names