Tuesday, June 26, 2012

An Apple's Use (Poem)

An Apple's Use 

. . . I doubt whether Sigmund Freud. . . could have analyzed
how Turing chose to bite Snow White's apple. . . .
~ Andrew Hodges, "My Oration", June 23, 1998

Turing's tongue tasted
of the apple found bedside

on his table. Half-eaten,
his was not the tainted fruit

of knowledge nor an Eve's folly
but the necessary sweetness

to deliver the poison for his
slumbering forever. His brain,

the coroner said, smelled
of bitter almonds: no accident,

and the verdict uncomputable.
His was a short life he coded

in the dark, its ending darker,
no complex encryption needed.

The cyanide consumed, he
took a last bite certain he would

crack no more German enigmas,
build no new machines to seed

the next streak of the artificial
intelligence of our networked future.

© 2012 Maureen E. Doallas

The brilliant British mathematician and philosopher Alan Turing committed suicide in 1954. His death was a tragic end for the founder of computer science.  

Turing is the subject of "Codebreaker — Alan Turing's Life and Legacy", an exhibition at London's Science Museum that celebrates the centenary of Turing's birth (June 23, 1912). The exhibition, which continues through July 31, showcases, among other artefacts, the pilot ACE computer for which Turing wrote the specification in 1945; a German Enigma codebreaking machine; and a bomb-aiming mechanical computer used in World War II.

This video introduces the exhibition's subject:

Alan Turing Website (Maintained by Andrew Hodges, Author of Alan Turing: the Engima The Centenary Edition)

Maev Kennedy, "Alan Turing: The Short, Brilliant Life and Tragic Death of an Enigma", The Guardian, June 20, 2012

Graham Moore, "Alan Turing: A Multitude of Lives in Fiction", BBC, June 23, 2012 (See the series of BBC posts on Turing, listed at the end of this article.)

"Gordon Brown: I'm Proud to Say Sorry to a Real War Hero", The Telegraph, September 10, 2009


Peggy Rosenthal said...

Fascinating poem, Maureen. I like all the "t"s in the opening lines; they seem to be trying to stutter the name "Turing."

Amazing that you could make a poem out of this unlikely material! A dark poem, yes; but your act of creating it blesses his suicide.

Deborah said...

Beautiful poem, moving and real.

Britton Minor said...

Completely moved by this post-your beautiful tributary poem, and the video you included.

Brian Miller said...

another brilliant mind succumb to its own trappings...much like so many musicians that die so young...what is it about creative types?

Anonymous said...

The first four stanzas and the last three cover the subject beautifully... Sad times when a sexuality is criminalised and then the authorities decide that because of that , those born that way, become security risks and subject them to "cures" of chemical castration.... As Jeanette winterson says "why be happy, when you can be normal" ...fine, fine write

Susan said...

Gorgeous!!!! (gorgeous--let me whisper instead of yell as the corpse is still in the room.) I'm speaking of the use of the APPLE here--perhaps his was poetic as well as sad--but your use of it is so fine in distinction from Eve's apple and more like Snow White's, finally taking a last bite to be sure. Perhaps it happened that way, but you gave it the symmetry and the virtue through diction: uncomputable/coded/bite/encryption leading to artificial intelligence of networking. 'Tain't nothing artificial about his death.

Beachanny said...

Blogger ate my comment.
I said:
Latest find it was not suicide but murder!

Your poem also kills! The deft and precise language you use in encompassing the work of Turing is brilliant!

Anonymous said...

Wonderful subject for a poem - interesting and so well-done. So interesting that this inventor of a means of knowledge would choose cyanide-laced apple. Crazy world, but cool poem. k.

Jeff said...

If I have computed correctly, a great play on words.

Sadly his destiny abridged, though perhaps not by chance. More likely written in his code.

Nicely done.


hedgewitch said...

As always, neatly and appetizingly constructed, balanced and lyric despite the focus on death and complex historical happenings--and its subject matter is fascinating, piquing the reader's curiosity about this man's life, accomplishments and perhaps a bit of codebreaking on the motives behind his suicide. As always, Maureen you do as much to inform as to entertain.