TURING (ALAN) Autograph letter signed ("Alan Turing"), to Maria Greenbaum ("Dear Maria"), the eight-year-old daughter of his Jungian analyst, explaining with the aid of three diagrams the moves needed to play out successfully at solitaire, Hollymeade, Adlington Road, Wilmslow, despatch (Wilmslow) datestamp 10 July 1953, with enclosed diagram and envelope

This lot has been removed from the website, please contact customer services for more information

Lot 172
TURING (ALAN)
Autograph letter signed ("Alan Turing"), to Maria Greenbaum ("Dear Maria"), the eight-year-old daughter of his Jungian analyst, explaining with the aid of three diagrams the moves needed to play out successfully at solitaire, Hollymeade, Adlington Road, Wilmslow, despatch (Wilmslow) datestamp 10 July 1953, with enclosed diagram and envelope. THE FAMOUS 'SOLITAIRE LETTER' SENT BY ALAN TURING TO THE DAUGHTER OF HIS ANALYST LESS THAN A YEAR BEFORE HIS DEATH

Sold for £ 40,000 (US$ 54,695) inc. premium
TURING (ALAN)
Autograph letter signed ("Alan Turing"), to Maria Greenbaum ("Dear Maria"), the eight-year-old daughter of his Jungian analyst, explaining with the aid of three diagrams the moves needed to play out successfully at solitaire ("...I find it helps, if I am trying to do the puzzle to use four kinds of pieces like this or better still to use a board with the squares in four colours. Each piece always stays on the same colour until it is taken/ You start with only four x's and you must still have on [sic] at the end so you must be very careful of them, But there are 12 o's to be got rid of. One needs to remember this all the time..."); and spelling out the moves she should make ("...In the best of moves the number shows the piece to be taken and '-' means it is to be taken by a move horizontally, and 'I' that it is vertical. The moves are 18-, 25ǀ, 18ǀ, 12-, 20ǀ, 11-, 12-, 11ǀ, 25ǀ, 30ǀ, 9-, 4ǀ, 2-, 9ǀ, 4ǀ, 9-, 8-, 29-, 25ǀ, 24-, 32-, 25ǀ, 30ǀ, 25-, 15-, 16-, 22-, 23-, 15ǀ, 9-, 10ǀ..."): he hopes that this will give her "something to do in the train" and ends the letter: "I hope you all have a very nice holiday in Italian Switzerland. I shall not be very far away at/ Club Mediterranée/ Ipsos-Corfu/ Greece/ Yours/ Alan Turing"; with a card illustrating the board in four colours (black, red, green and white), as originally enclosed in the letter; plus original autograph envelope ("Miss Maria Greenbaum/ 6 Longton Ave/ Didsbury"), Post Office Express Delivery sticker at top left-hand corner, blue-crayon cancellation, stamp removed [by recipient], the letter 2 pages, plus enclosure, in fine fresh condition, 8vo, Hollymeade, Adlington Road, Wilmslow, despatch (Wilmslow) datestamp 10 July 1953

Footnotes

  • 'JUST TO TELL YOU HOW TO DO THE SOLITAIRE PUZZLE' – THE FAMOUS 'SOLITAIRE LETTER' SENT BY ALAN TURING TO THE DAUGHTER OF HIS ANALYST LESS THAN A YEAR BEFORE HIS DEATH, recently described as: 'a complete lesson in logic from an acknowledged mathematical genius, written in his own hand' and 'an extraordinary thing to possess' (Vincent Dowd, Witness programme, BBC World Service, 6 June 2014).

    The letter was first brought to public attention by Sara Turing in her pioneering memoir of her son: 'It must have been the childish streak in Alan which made him so much liked by and at home with children... A friend who spent a cycling holiday with Alan in France told me how in the French shops children paid no attention to him, but gathered round Alan, whose attitude towards children was that of "man to man" and was founded on a sympathetic understanding of them. He would take great pains for them. Thus for one of his very young friends going abroad he wrote out a method of playing Solitaire to amuse her on the journey. His instructions include three diagrams; writing to this little girl of seven, as usual he raises her to his level and says: "I find it helps, if I am trying to do the puzzle to use four kinds of pieces like this (see diagram) or better still to use a board with the squares in four colours. Each piece always stays on the same colour until it is taken." He then continues with further warnings and advice. The letter was carefully posted "Express" – this from one who normally shirked letter-writing and caused exasperation by his dilatoriness over correspondence' (Sara Turing, Alan M. Turing, Cambridge, W. Heffer, 1959, pp. 65-6).

    The letter is also quoted by Alan Hodges in what has become the standard biography: 'On 10 May Alan sent a letter to Maria Greenbaum, describing a complete solution to a solitaire puzzle, and ending: "I hope you all have a very nice holiday in Italian Switzerland. I shall not be very far away at/ Club Mediterranée Ipsos-Corfu Greece Yours Alan Turing". He had already – most likely in 1951 – been to a Club Mediterranée on the French coast. In the summer of 1953, probably over the period of the coronation, Caliban escaped from the island for his brief ration of fun, to Paris for a short while, and then to Corfu' (Alan Turing: The Enigma, 1992, p. 486). (Incidentally, the envelope is date-stamped 'JY' standing for July, rather than May, which places the Greenbaums' and Turing's holidays in a more conventional season than that suggested by Hodges.)

    There are, of course, close links between games such as chess and solitaire – known in the United States as 'peg solitaire' – and those allied Turing fields of computing and artificial intelligence; as Sara Turing herself perceived: 'In his enjoyment of indoor games Alan wanted to get to the underlying principle... As Assistant Director of the Manchester Automatic Digital Machine Alan was in a position to put further test in the ability of a machine to play chess. From the experience gained he contributed in 1953 an article, "Digital Computers applied to Games: Chess," in Faster than Thought... Here he follows his preliminary remarks about machines and their design and programming to play chess, with the moves in an actual game between the machine and a moderate player. He then proceeds to criticize the machine's play and note its limitations. Elsewhere he expressed the view that a machine would not make the same mistake twice, unless the electrical current were turned off, in which case it would be as fallible as any human player. Compared with playing chess, Solitaire would be simple for a machine to play and he thought a demonstration of its performance with Solitaire would be of interest to visitors and be easy to follow' (pp. 98-9).

    In the assessment of his modern biographer: 'After 1945 he often used chess-playing as an example of what a computer could do, and in his 1946 report on the possibilities of a computer, made his first reference to machine "intelligence" in connection with chess-playing. In 1948 he met Donald Michie again and competed with him in writing a simple chess-playing algorithm' (Alan Hodges Alan Turing Internet Scrapbook - the Origins of Artificial Intelligence). In 1950 he wrote the world's first computer chess programme, which was not to be put to the test until 2012, when Garry Kasparov took it on, winning in sixteen moves and remarking: 'I suppose you might call it primitive, but I would compare it to an early car - you might laugh at them but it is still an incredible achievement' (BBC News website, 25 June 2012).

    On 31 March 1952, Turing was brought to trial for conducting a sexual relationship with a young Manchester man. Although he was open about his sexuality and was at pains to tell everyone that he saw no wrong in his actions, in order to avoid prison he elected to undergo injections of the hormone oestrogen, a form of chemical castration. That autumn, of his own volition, he undertook analysis with the Jungian Dr Franz Greenbaum, a pre-war refugee from Nazi Germany who had settled in Manchester in 1939 with his wife Hilla and their two daughters, Barbara and Maria. He soon became a close friend of the family. Maria has recollected: 'I grew very fond of him and he was always very friendly. He eventually became more of a family friend than a patient of my father. I remember him having dinner with us often. After dinner he would sit on the floor with me while I played Solitaire. I thought it was so nice. He was a very warm person who always took an interest in what I was doing. I grew very attached to him... He had quite a stammer and bit his nails. He could be described as hyped up. But I always remember him as kind and friendly' (Daily Mirror, 15 November 2014). In the summer of 1954 Turing accompanied the family on a Blackpool holiday, where the girls saw at first hand something of his increasingly fraught condition, as Barbara has recalled: 'Alan turned up at our house in a very strange outfit, which looked like his school cricket whites. White trousers which came half-way up his ankles and a white shirt which was very creased and crumpled. But it was a lovely sunny day and Alan was in a cheerful mood and off we went. Then he thought it would be a good idea to go to the Pleasure Beach at Blackpool. We found a fortune-teller's tent and Alan said he'd like to go in so we waited around for him to come back. And this sunny, cheerful visage had shrunk into a pale, shaking, horror-stricken face. Something had happened. We don't know what the fortune-teller said but he obviously was deeply unhappy. I think that was probably the last time we saw him before we heard of his suicide' (Witness, BBC World Service).

    Weeks later their mother brought Maria and her sister news of his death: 'I remember it very clearly, my mum coming into my little room and saying, "I've got something to tell you. Alan has died." I was very upset and turned over in bed and cried. It was a lot to experience at that age. The death of a friend. I became very attached to him in the 18 months he visited my father, who tried to help him. I feel very privileged to have been a very, very tiny part of someone's life who is well recognised for what he's done. I had no idea back then of his work at Bletchley Park or of his contribution to computer science – that came later' (Daily Mirror).
Contacts
TURING (ALAN) Autograph letter signed ("Alan Turing"), to Maria Greenbaum ("Dear Maria"), the eight-year-old daughter of his Jungian analyst, explaining with the aid of three diagrams the moves needed to play out successfully at solitaire, Hollymeade, Adlington Road, Wilmslow, despatch (Wilmslow) datestamp 10 July 1953, with enclosed diagram and envelope
TURING (ALAN) Autograph letter signed ("Alan Turing"), to Maria Greenbaum ("Dear Maria"), the eight-year-old daughter of his Jungian analyst, explaining with the aid of three diagrams the moves needed to play out successfully at solitaire, Hollymeade, Adlington Road, Wilmslow, despatch (Wilmslow) datestamp 10 July 1953, with enclosed diagram and envelope
TURING (ALAN) Autograph letter signed ("Alan Turing"), to Maria Greenbaum ("Dear Maria"), the eight-year-old daughter of his Jungian analyst, explaining with the aid of three diagrams the moves needed to play out successfully at solitaire, Hollymeade, Adlington Road, Wilmslow, despatch (Wilmslow) datestamp 10 July 1953, with enclosed diagram and envelope
Auction information

This auction is now finished. If you are interested in consigning in future auctions, please contact the specialist department. If you have queries about lots purchased in this auction, please contact customer services.

Buyers' Obligations

ALL BIDDERS MUST AGREE THAT THEY HAVE READ AND UNDERSTOOD BONHAMS' CONDITIONS OF SALE AND AGREE TO BE BOUND BY THEM, AND AGREE TO PAY THE BUYER'S PREMIUM AND ANY OTHER CHARGES MENTIONED IN THE NOTICE TO BIDDERS. THIS AFFECTS THE BIDDERS LEGAL RIGHTS.

If you have any complaints or questions about the Conditions of Sale, please contact your nearest customer services team.

Buyers' Premium and Charges

For all Sales categories, buyer's premium excluding Cars, Motorbikes, Wine, Whisky and Coin & Medal sales, will be as follows:

Buyer's Premium Rates
27.5% on the first £10,000 of the hammer price;
25% of the hammer price of amounts in excess of £10,000 up to and including £450,000;
20% of the hammer price of amounts in excess of £450,000 up to and including £4,500,000;
and 14.5% of the hammer price of any amounts in excess of £4,500,000.

VAT at the current rate of 20% will be added to the Buyer's Premium and charges excluding Artists Resale Right.

Payment Notices

For payment information please refer to the sale catalog.

Shipping Notices

For information and estimates on domestic and international shipping as well as export licenses please contact Bonhams Shipping Department.

App