256 items, you say?
What a weird number to appear in this context.
More than 250 items belonging to super-Brit Alan Turing, including his OBE medal, that went missing decades ago were found hidden behind a bathroom wall in America, according to new court documents. The items, which include photos of the revered mathematician and school reports from his teenage years, vanished 36 years ago …
As mentioned in the article, no less. "the 256 items (a number that Turing would no doubt have appreciated)"
Of course, as a mathematician, he would've appreciated all natural numbers, because they're all interesting...
Probably no weirder than any other positive integer in this context (synchronicity aside, random numbers, due to their random nature, do soemtimes appear to have meaning). There's the possiblity here, that the woman involved may have deliberately worked it so that there were this number of items, but it does appear that her specific brand of mental illness leans more towards disorganised thinking, than OCD.
Now, if the number of items recovered had been non-integer, or even irrational (or complex), then that woudl be weird.
Police recovered e + πi items. Officers were reported to be bleeding from their eyes and chanting "Iä! Iä! Ftaghn!".
Corrected later in his It's totally all there this time Theorum. At the time of his death, I believe, he was working on a prequel; the Where the hell is everything Theorum
NOTE: The above is wholly untrue and may or may not be me posting random bollocks to try and get my forum badge back again.
after discovering she had more than 256 items, I suppose the thief sent the remainder of the items back in order to make the number 256 happen.
Well I hope they get a proper museum exhibit, at any rate, if not just for the fact they're Turing's items, for the fact that someone stole them.
And I think this woman sounds too much like some kind of stalker... taking trophies... did she talk to his ghost [in her mind or otherwise] ? At some point will 'crazy' become a defense for her?
She clearly is a little west of sane, but she was sane enough to hide her purloinments and to know that she was doing wrong, although I am sure she believes that she was serving a higher purpose, that is, the flame on the altar of Turing. I know that there is cunning and there is 'mad cunning' -- which side does she fall on?
'Why did the school not have an inventory?'
Maybe because they are a school, not a museum or logistics operation?
In hindsight it seems obvious, but maybe not at the time.
Unless I've missed it it is not clear when the school came in to possession of the items.
AT's accomplishments are well known today and rightly a high value is placed on them.
In times past this information wasn't so widely known and accordingly the perceived value of the collection may have been different.
I hope they get everything back.
Ninja'd - Gonzo wizard just beat me to it!
"AT's accomplishments are well known today and rightly a high value is placed on them."
I would argue his *important* accomplishments were well known 36+"a few years" ago. I knew about his seminal work on computer science in 1980. I am pretty sure the school would have known that he was an important mathematician.
The fact that he was one of the large team at Bletchley Park would not have been well known of course, but that wasn't his major achievement.
"The fact that he was one of the large team at Bletchley Park would not have been well known of course, but that wasn't his major achievement."
His role at Bletchley Park is the one which is better understood outside of the computing community. I suspect if you ask the general public what a Turing Machine is they'd most likely describe an Enigma Machine.
Turing's fame outside the tech world rest, I think, mainly on his cryptography work which was kept secret until the seventies and even then took a few years to filter out to the general consciousness (and even longer to transmute into a form of reverence*) so I don't blame the school for not appreciating the value of what they had all the way back in the 80s.
*I'm not suggesting that Turing doesn't deserve his status a a secular saint and martyr, just noting the process.
"Why did the school not have an inventory?
A fair question but, having worked for an institution that regularly received such donations, I can sympathise.
Very few donations of papers, photographs and the like come with a detailed description. More commonly you receive several cardboard boxes of completely unsorted material without any details of what you are getting.
Descriptions such as "Uncle Podger's papers", "Contents of desk" and "1877" are often all you get, which is why each unsorted box normally gets given a unique number.
Sorting, cataloguing and conserving these boxes then has to wait until people are available, and it is not uncommon for researchers to assist in doing this.
I suspect the school was not in a position to carry out such a procedure, as they would understandably have different priorities.
This is also why most major collections will not allow anyone access to their material until the necessary security checks have been undertaken.
Err, because it's a school?
When I moved schools in the early 2000s the library wasn't even properly ordered (this was a great disappointment to me coming to a private senior school from a state middle school which had an excellent little library run by a lady shared amongst the local schools who was very active at acquisitions/discards to keep it full of books kids actually wanted to read. I've still got my Student Librarian badge somewhere</nerd-alert>).
There was a loose split of fiction/non-fiction and I think someone had once tried to implement some sort of categorisation but there was no librarian and so the shelves were not maintained. Most of the books were pre-1990, the atlases, reference books and encyclopaedias were even older. There wasn't a copy of Harry Potter nor LoTR to be found (just the compleat works of Clive Cussler/Dirk Pitt to date! Somebody was obviously a fan). This was only rectified some years later when a new chaplain was appointed. His wife was a properly trained Librarian & Archivist who took stock of the situation and beat up the headmaster to spend some money.
I can imagine a box of former pupil's belongings would have - at best - ended up in a dusty, display cabinet which might have been locked if the whereabouts of the key was known. At worst it would have ended up in a cupboard in the back of the (Deputy-)Head's Office forgotten about. The idea of being properly inventoried? Pah!
I volunteer in a charity shop which sells books and I run a constant campaign to keep the fiction and non fiction books separate. Books which clearly state on the cover that they are autobiographies or ‘true life’ get put in the fiction section stock.
I’m obviously not there all the time but take time when I am to look over the stock room and move books around. Recently I put a price sticker with a non fiction code on a book as I kept moving it and kept finding it back in the fiction section.
Some people’s hold on the boundary between fact and fiction is dodgy in the extreme. Either that or they don’t care enough to maintain it. I blame religion for the last one.
> This was only rectified some years later when a new chaplain was appointed. His wife was a properly trained Librarian & Archivist who took stock of the situation and beat up the headmaster to spend some money.
I PRESUME that it isn't the case, but I have this hilarious image in my head of a vicar's bespectacled twig wife taking a cane to the headmaster until he agrees to crowbar open the purse strings and let her hire some help to (literally) sort-out the appalling situation in the library.
I have a degree of sympathy for her; she obviously has some sort of profound, untreated, mental illness, as it appears she has trouble discerning fantasy from reality. This case probably tells us more about how our society (or in this case, US society) looks after people with such issues.
This case probably tells us more about how our society (or in this case, US society) looks after people with such issues.
I agree that she likely has brain problems but from what little we know it seems she was an otherwise functional adult. How much responsibility does society really have to interfere with the life choices of someone like this? Apart from the theft (obviously), what real harm has she caused herself or others?
It's not a crime in the U.S. to have a shrine in your home to your ex-lover, Brad Pitt, Scarlett Johannson, some Playboy playmate or Alan Turing. Its just creepy as all hell.
It is a crime to steal things for inclusion in said shrine, and you can get committed if the destruction or your enforced absence from the shrine makes you a diagnosed danger to yourself or others.
It *isn't* the only response. There are a wide range of mental health options in the US, public and private. They vary a lot by location, of course. (Nowheresville in the desert can't just magic up a psychiatrist.)
However, depriving you of liberty - *forcing* you to receive mental health treatment - can generally only be done if you are judged to present a danger to yourself or others due to your mental illness.
This determination is made by a judge (based on medical evidence), *not* because it is a crime, but because it is a legal process that deprives you (hopefully temporarily) of your freedom.
Exactly what happens over here: tell the local plod some thieving little git has some property of yours and a picked squad of BORDER FORCE! *, MI5, the National Crime Agency and the local Crime Squad will swoop and ransack the miscreant's house.
* Customs & Excise in reality.
And we laugh at Trumpo's ridiculous SPACE FORCE!... The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
> ... US Homeland Security agents raided her house ...
Why DHS though? Surely this is a criminal matter at best (although they apparently proceeded with a civil complaint to recover the stolen property) so within the bailiwick of Department of Justice?
All I can come up with is that Turing's papers somehow contain the secret to breaking all elliptic-curve cryptography despite it not having been invented yet.
"Why DHS though? Surely this is a criminal matter at best (although they apparently proceeded with a civil complaint to recover the stolen property) so within the bailiwick of Department of Justice?"
Look into the Double Eagle coins (might be a documentary on Nextflix). That "theft"* involves the Secret Service, Interpol and loads of other agencies.
*Theft is not clear in all the case of the missing coins...it's a great story
The missing coins were replaced with coins of other dates containing the same amount of gold, so the "thief" didn't make the American government any poorer, he prevented the destruction of a numismatic rarity.
This is like the case of the man who vacuumed Apollo space suits, and then later extracted moondust from his floorboards. He was charged with stealing the moondust from the U.S. government, even though everything would have been fine if he just let it be lost.
The rationale in the moon dust case is a bit like the one behind the rules about ivory, to prevent a market for moon dust arising which would endanger scientific research on it - and one way to put this that applies to both cases is that the U.S. government gets to be an absolute stickler about its property rights as a way to prevent people from frustrating its intentions.
HM C&E were always wankers, where as the Revenue people were without exception helpful and understanding, even of exceptionally late payments. Anytime I had the misfortune to deal with Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs it was obvious the former were responsible for any customer facing operations :(
What a sad life she has. I wonder if she went off the rails, or if she never was on them and found Alan's life appealing/attractive and used that to build her own.
In any case, unfortunately for her, his things will obviously be returned to their rightful place. It just might be a good idea to post a full-time guard because she seems quite capable of going and stealing them again.
That Turing himself had no time for such trivial trinkets, being more interested in important questions.
The award of the OBE was and is a standing reproach to the British government. Like Tim Berners-Lee, Turing deserved to be made an earl at least for his immense contributions to mathematics, philosophy, science and computing. As well as helping to win the war.
Very probably a greater contribution as he was instrumental in their success.
However, giving an obscure (at the time) mathematics professor such a high level gong as a peerage would have provoked a lot of questions as to why because his field of expertise was public knowledge and believed to be no more than a theoretical concept. Very few people knew about the ultimate source of intelligence that the Bletchley team provided until the 1970s.
Returned to the school? Hmm... I wonder if someone would decide that now they're on US soil it's finders keepers and off they go to the Smithsonian?
Which, though disappointing, would at least be preferable to the response of some American politicians I can think of, who might well decide that because the person in question wasn't heterosexual they belong in the nearest furnace.
No joke here, just pondering what they'll do.
"Hmm... I wonder if someone would decide that now they're on US soil it's finders keepers and off they go to the Smithsonian?"
It would be ironic if British artefacts were plundered and carted off half-way round the world to be displayed in a museum. However, nowadays it's going to be difficult for that to stand up in court.
The Elgin Marbles are a far more debatable case. The rulers of Athens were paid for them at the time. People say that the Ottoman Empire is not Greece and an occupying force, but they ruled it for hundreds of years.
There are far more obvious candidates in the British Museum. The Benin Bronzes for example, which are a bit of a piss take.
If you went to visit the memorabilia of someone famous, who you admired and possibly even worshipped, and discovered the entire collection could be stolen by a couple of eight year olds, in a matter of minutes, wouldn't the idea of "looking after them" yourself, that they might still be around in years to come, cross your mind?
The school is extremely lucky that it was her who got a hold of them first and not some wealthy collector.
Q. Why does Egypt have so many pyramids?
A. Howard Carter's pockets were already full.
" In 2009, the British government apologized for Turing's prosecution as a homosexual, and in 2013, the cryptanalyst was pardoned."
I'm uncomfortable with that phrasing. IAMAL but broadly speaking a "Pardon" in law is applied to someone who has been found guilty of a crime, who as a result of the pardon does not have to serve a sentence. What would really be a just outcome would be a quashing of the sentence. Secondly, why should that be applied specifically to Turing, and not to everyone who was ever prosecuted (and possibly convicted) based on an unjust law?
Maybe this has been simplified in the article and the legal reality is a bit different. Anyone know?
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