Letters/Copy Letters

Scope and Content

Exchange of letters with Beatrice Worsley [1921-1972, computer scientist], formerly a research student at Cambridge but latterly a student and academic at the University of Toronto.

/1 In Worsley's initial letter of 9 January, she acknowledges receipt of the handbook [Mark I Programming Manual ]. She says Bennett and Pollard of Ferranti have visited Toronto, commenting "Manchester's progress is most commendable, and your Mark II is highly esteemed over here". Toronto is phasing out the UTEC [University of Toronto Electronic Computer] for "a much more ambitious machine", but feels they are not using the skills of mathematicians [in the event, Toronto purchased a Mark I computer, which was known as FERUT]. Worsley would be interested in remote control work on the machine.

/2 letter of 17 January, Worsley queries whether any actually existing computer is similar to Turing's theoretical one. Says she is looking to identify the simplest single-address, serially-obeyed order code which could calculate a computable number according to Turing's theory, and gives an example of what she thinks this could be. She also raises the issue of which property of the human mind could not be duplicated by the "imitation game", and suggests it might be "spontaneity". Worsley refers him to an article by McCulloch and Potts in the Journal of Medical Biophysics 5 1953, which postulates a mechanism which determines the excitement of the neuron, which might be relevant to this.

/3 In Turing's first reply, dated 25 January, he says he will support Worsley's application for a research fellowship, saying willing to supervise her work. He likes her idea of working the machine by remote control, and will support her application for the research fellowship. /4 is a copy of Turing's letter of 25 January to Canada's National Research Council. /5 also an undated letter, where he appears to be answering some technical issues raised by Worsley, although not clear if this refers to her letter of 17 January or 9 February.

/6 Letter from Worsley 9 February, "your long letter is most helpful" [presumably responding to her letter of 17 January; a copy of this is not present]. Thanks for his help in supporting her application to the National Research Council. Discusses briefly his solution to her problem, and understands how to derive logical operations now as involves distinction between "digital manipulation and intellectual concept".

/7 Worsley's letter of 26 May, refers to Dr Gotleib [Calvin Gotleib, 1921-2016, Canadian computer scientist]. Says her thesis is nearly ready, nobody been able to deal with her "Haupt Exponents problem". Recognises that her plan to do remote programming may be difficult to achieve: "Long distance programming is a good idea in theory, but I'm afraid it will break down at the human-element level".

/8 In her letter of 19 November 1952, Worsley describes their new computer FERUT, and says [Christopher] Strachey will tell him about the INPUT and DIRECTORY schemes. Says look forward to Cicely Popplewell joining them in the new year [Popplewell was an assistant to Turing at the MCL]. Worsley asks for advice on a problem she is having in calculating the mass distribution in particles of raindrops (described). /9 In his reply, 26 November, Turing gives his views on her raindrops query, "Need much more thought in the physics than in the computation", and once the physical problem is understood the computation is easier.

Related Material

See also TUR/Add/13, 45.