12 June 2013
ALAN TURING AND HIS CIRCLE
TURING, Ethel Sara (1881-1976, mother of Alan Turing). Series of 11 autograph letters to Robin Gandy, Guilford, 28 July 1954 - 11 June 1971 (most before 1959), altogether 29 pages, 8vo (2 letters dated 17 May and 26 May 1955 incomplete, lacking continuation leaves, occasional light soiling).
WHAT CAUSED ALAN TURING'S DEATH? Turing was found dead of cyanide poisoning on 8 June 1954: an inquest determined that the fatal dose had been consumed via a half-eaten apple which was found by his bed. The first letter of the present series (written only six weeks after Turing's death) expounds his mother's view that the death was instead caused by careless use of an electroplating apparatus: 'I enclose some things of A's found here: & also a spoon partly plated which I found in the lab. at Hollymeade. It suggests that it had been held in his fingers in some liquid. I wonder if he was using the cyanide for some plating: but possibly he was working on some theory of reactions of coke under electrolysis & associated with cyanide ... I read an article in "Nature" giving the statistics so far known of the percentage of people unable to smell cyanide of potassium -- quite a considerable percentage in men -- more than in women. / I can get nothing out of John [Turing's brother] who evidently thinks the episode closed ... I am busy collecting particulars of his early days culled from letters & school reports -- for despite his detractors (notably his father) I knew he was quite out of the ordinary. But his reports make tragically prophetic reading always the refrain of carelessness due to impatience to reach the next step in experiments ... I wonder if you can make anything of the stuff on this spoon?'. The remaining letters discuss aspects of Turing's life and work (including discussion of unpublished papers), often in relation to her biography of her son; notably, a long letter of 3 June 1957 discusses matters including Turing's religious beliefs, and the official censorship of her account of Turing's war years (at Bletchley Park).
TURING, Ethel Sara (1881-1976). Alan M. Turing. Cambridge: W. Heffer & Sons Ltd, 1959. 8 (216 x 138mm). Half-title. Frontispiece portrait and 6 plates. Original cloth, dust-jacket (extremities rubbed, d.j. soiled and defective). Provenance: Robin Gandy (biro signature to prelim and occasional light pencil annotation).
NEWMAN, Maxwell Herman Alexander. 'Alan Mathison Turing'. Offprint from: Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of The Royal Society, vol. I. London: November 1955. 12pp., 253-263. Portrait frontispiece. (Three pieces of old tape to portrait, occasional faint creasing and dog-earing.) Original stapled wrappers (two pinholes to upper cover, extremities rubbed). Provenance: R.O. Gandy (pencil numbering against bibliography at end). (13)
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