A remarkable scientific document went under the hammer today at Bonhams in New York. The rare handwritten manuscript by Alan Turing in which he made notes on symbolic logic and mathematics during the Second World War for sold for US$1,025,000.
Evidence, such as references to previously published works, indicates that Turing wrote the manuscript at Bletchley Park no earlier than 1942, when he was working on cracking the famous German Enigma code, which provided the Allies with vital information credited with helping shorten the war.
The unassuming 56-page composition book was previously withheld from sales of memorabilia related to the mathematician because the blank pages in the middle section were used by the British mathematician and logician Robin Oliver Gandy (1919-1995) to keep a personal dream journal. The notebook was part of a collection of papers that were bequeathed to Gandy after Turing's death in 1954.
The notebook was originally bought from a Cambridge stationer's shop and is the only extensive autograph manuscript by Turing to survive.
The subject of the manuscript is Turing's thoughts on symbolic logic and mathematics, based on his discussions with the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein 1939.
"This is a wonderful result and a fitting testament to Alan Turing's impact and legacy," said Cassandra Hatton, Senior Specialist in Fine Books and Manuscripts and the History of Science at Bonhams. "It has been a great privilege to have been involved in this sale and we are immensely pleased that all the people who bid for this unique item and indeed the wider public have recognized Turing's importance and place in history."
The auction was part of Bonhams Fine Books & Manuscripts Sale, with part of the proceeds going to charity.