Alan Turing’s Intellectual Roots

David Leavitt holds Turing's school reports during filming at the Sherborne School archive.

Part of CODEBREAKER focuses on the time that Alan Turing spent at Sherborne School, a boarding school in Dorset, England. Turing attended the school from 1926 until he started at King’s College, Cambridge in 1931. The film features newly uncovered information about the books he checked out between 1928 & 1931. The list offers clues about Turing’s early intellectual development.

Sherborne Archivist Rachel Hassall discovered the information in old log books from the Sherborne school library. The list of books Turing checked out includes, The Nature of the Physical World, Alice in Wonderland, and The Game of Logic. Author Alex Bellos summarizes Hassall’s research on his blog.

Hassall also has compiled transcripts from the school report cards that Turing received from his teachers at Sherborne . A Natural Science instructor said, “He is keen & has a natural bent for science, but his work is badly spoilt by extreme untidiness.” Turing’s mathematics teacher wrote, “He has considerable powers of reasoning and should do well if he can quicken up a little and improve his style.”

After examining the school reports at Sherborne’s archive room, Turing biographer David Leavitt told us, “His teachers didn’t recognize they had a tremendous mathematical genius in their midst.”

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