Turing letterImage copyright Manchester University
Image caption The 147 letters detail Turing’s research and show what life was like in post-war Manchester

Almost 150 letters by computer pioneer Alan Turing have been unearthed in a storeroom at the University of Manchester.

The cache of correspondence was found in an old filing cabinet opened when the storeroom was being cleared out.

The letters concern the research Turing carried out at Manchester and also give glimpses of some of his personal views.

Declining an invitation to speak in the US he declares that he “detests” the country.

Exciting find

Turing became the deputy head of Manchester’s fledgling computer laboratory in 1948 following his code-cracking work at Bletchley Park and a short stint at the UK’s National Physical Laboratory.

In 1948, Manchester switched on one of the world’s first stored-program computers – the Small Scale Experimental Machine.

The Turing letters date from early 1949 to 1954 when Turing took his own life. It is likely that the letters have not been seen for more than 30 years.

“I was astonished such a thing had remained hidden out of sight for so long,” said Prof Jim Miles of Manchester’s school of computer science, who found the letters while tidying up the room.

“No-one who now works in the School or at the University knew they even existed,” he said in a statement detailing the discovery. “It really was an exciting find and it is a mystery as to why they had been filed away.”

The find was made in May and the 147 letters have now been sorted and catalogued by the university so Turing scholars can examine them.

The letters bring to light some of Turing’s thoughts on subjects he was researching at Manchester including artificial intelligence, computing and mathematics.

“This is a truly unique find,” said Peter James, archivist at Manchester’s university library adding that it gave an “insight into his working practices and academic life” during his time at the institution.

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