Hollywood Collectors Snap Up Nazi Code-Breaker Alan Turing’s Papers

Mathematician, philosopher, and renowned code-breaker who battled the Nazis, Alan Turning is having a moment—and it’s not just because of Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays Turing in an upcoming Hollywood movie.

Any ephemera associated with the British mathematician, who cracked the Nazi secret codes, has become increasingly sought after lately. And the auction market for Enigma machines, encryption devices made famous due to their heavy use in WWII, have been on a steady incline, with certain pieces now selling in the $200,000 range.

According to Vanity Fair, last year, two signed offprints of one of Turing’s scientific papers collected a whopping $321,800 at auction. Why? Christie’s scientific specialist James Hyslop explains, “To find something that has a direct personal connection to Turing is extraordinarily rare.” “The declassification of his wartime world, and recent anniversaries [of his birth and death], by increasing public awareness of his astonishing achievements, have seen the upsurge in market demand for his works,” Hyslop adds.

Christie’s couldn’t have chosen a better time for “Code Breakers: Enigmas and Other Cipher Machines,” an online auction in progress, through December 3. Turing is also the subject of a major movie titled The Imitation Game, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, arriving in theaters on November 28.

For years, Turing’s life and career has been shrouded in mystery by the Official Secrets Act. But since the 1970s, more details about his life and times have come to light. His life came to a tragic end when he died of cyanide poisoning in 1954, age 41, after he agreed to be chemically castrated or go to prison for his homosexuality, which was still a crime in Britain in 1952. His death was ruled a suicide. In recent years, Turing, regarded as a war hero, has become something of a household name in Britain. In 2012, there were public celebrations in Britain to mark the 100th anniversary of his birth. And he was posthumously pardoned by Queen Elizabeth II in 2013.

 


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