日期:2016-05-21 15:16


This particular incident was always held against Mr Turing by his wife, the more so as she was particularly in awe of Lady Willingdon. The truth perhaps was that despite all the endless talk of duty, the qualities required in a district officer were very different from those of rule-book-keeping and deference to rank. Governing millions of people spread over an area equal to that of Wales called for an independent judgment and force of personality which were less welcome in the more courtly circles of metropolitan Madras. They were certainly little needed in his retirement, in which the busy intrigue of India assumed a retrospective appeal. His remaining years were dogged by a sense of loss, disillusion, and an intense boredom which fishing and bridge parties could never alleviate. He was aggravated by the fact that his younger wife found the return to Europe an opportunity to emerge from the constricting mental atmosphere of Dublin and Coonoor. For he had little regard for her more intellectual ambitions, combined as they were with a rather nervous, fussy domesticity; while she suffered from his obsessive penny-pinching and sense of being betrayed. They were both emotionally demanding, but neither met the other's demands, and they came to communicate in little but planning the garden.


One result of the new arrangement was that Alan now saw some point to learning French, and it became Alan's favourite school subject. But he also liked it as a sort of code, in which he naively wrote a postcard to his mother about 'la revolution' at Hazelhurst that Mr Darlington was not supposed to be able to read. (The joke was on their Breton maid at Dinard, who often spoke of a socialist revolution being imminent.)


But it was science that entranced him, as his parents discovered when they arrived back to find him clutching Natural Wonders. Their reaction was not entirely negative. Mrs Turing's grandfather's second cousin, George Johnstone Stoney (1826-1911), had been a famous Irish scientist whom she had once met as a girl in Dublin. He was best known as the inventor of the word 'electron' which he coined in 1894 before the atomicity of electric charge had been established. Mrs Turing was very proud of having a Fellow of the Royal Society in her family, for ranks and titles made a great impression upon her. She would also show Alan the picture of Pasteur on the French postage stamps, which suggested the prospect of Alan as a benefactor of humanity. Perhaps she recalled that doctor missionary in Kashmir, all those years ago! – but there was also the simple fact that although she herself pressed her ideas into a suitably ladylike form, she still represented the Stoneys who had married applied science to the expanding empire. Alan's father, however, could well have pointed out that a scientist could expect no more than ?500 a year, even in the Civil Service.


But he also helped Alan in his own way, for when back at school in May 1924 Alan wrote: