Alan Turing is included in the "Britons of Distinction" set of Royal Mail stamps that will be released in February 2012. But if you are looking for Turing's portrait on an envelope you will be disappointed.
My first reaction to the news that Alan Turing is one of the ten distinguished individuals chosen to figure on UK postage stamps in 2012 was positive. How fitting, I thought, that Turing should be honored in this way in his centenary year.
Then I went to look for the stamp itself - expecting to see one of the portraits that are becoming increasingly familiar.
But no. The image chosen for the stamp depicts the Bombe and it is only if you read the lettering that you will discover that the stamp commemorates Alan Turing. And as the Bombe isn't mentioned - and looks rather like an abacus at a casual glance - you'll need to make the connection for yourself.
Yes, the Bombe is of significant importance. It was the electromechanical device used by the World War II codebreakers at Bletchley Park to decipher the messaged encoded by Nazi Germany using Enigma machines.
And yes, it was Alan Turing who produced the initial design of the British Bombe used at Bletchley Park. But we remember Turing for so many achievements that choosing just one seems rather a backhanded compliment. Every time you read a headline something like "Alan Turing - gay codebreaker", then you can be sure that the point has been missed. Turing was gay and did help break codes but he did so much more. Equally to hear him described as the man responsible for the modern computer isn't realistic.
It would have been better to select a portrait of the man himself in Alan Turing Year.
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