Bletchley Park, the place where the Nazi secret code was cracked

The summit on Artificial Intelligence that brought together political leaders, technological giants and experts in this field this Wednesday and Thursday in the United Kingdom to address its dangers and try to achieve international control over its development had as one of its headquarters a place with great historical burden. Bletchley Park is one of the cradles of computing and where mathematician Alan Touring managed to decipher the secret code that the Nazis used to communicate during World War II. Its existence remained a secret until the seventies.

In 1938, before Germany invaded Poland and World War II began, the British Government began searching for a location for what they called the Government Communications Headquarters and Cipher School (GC&CS). The estate, located 80 kilometers north of London and named after the Victorian-era mansion it housed, had several advantages: it was an hour by train from London, the universities of Oxford and Cambridge were equally close and it had a telephone line. .

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At the head of the team of 10,000 cryptography specialists – 80% were women – who gathered there throughout the six years of confrontation was Alan Touring, considered one of the fathers of Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence itself. Born on June 23, 1912, from a very young age he showed extraordinary gifts for mathematics and logic. At only 16 years old he read and -understood- the works of Einstein. In 1934 he graduated in Mathematics from the University of Cambridge and two years later he published an article in which he proposed a theoretical machine that has been considered a precursor to computers.

The Enigma Machine

One of the great difficulties in deciphering the Enigma codes – a type of typewriter capable of generating millions of ciphertext combinations – is that they changed the key every midnight. Together with another mathematician, he developed a device that they named ‘Bomb’ that managed to unravel Nazi secrets. Later he was also the architect of one of the first computers in history, the Colossus, to counteract another German device, Lorenz, even more complex than Enigma. It is estimated that without the work carried out at Bletchley Park the war would have dragged on for two years. His story was told in the movie ‘The Imitation Game’.

The end of Touring was tragic. He was convicted of his homosexuality in 1952 and subjected to chemical castration. He committed suicide by eating an apple poisoned with cyanide. In 2009, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown publicly apologized on behalf of the British Government for “the appalling way in which he had been treated.”

After the war, Bletchley Park underwent various uses, from teacher training to the post office. Abandoned, it was even considered to install a shopping center. Currently this historic place is a museum with an area of ​​20 hectares that has the aforementioned mansion, parks and a small lake. You can visit it from 25 pounds, almost 30 euros.

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