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ID: 2571
Two Autograph Letters signed by Robin Gandy to Donald Bayley following the Death of Alan Turing

Category: History

University College, Leicester, No Publisher.


Two Autograph Letters signed by Robin Gandy to Donald Bayley. First letter, four pages 8vo and two pages 4to, University College, Leicester, "Wednesday" [16, 23 or 30 June 1954]. Written shortly after Turing's death, expressing Gandy's shock at the news and his belief that it was probably accidental ("...I stayed with him the previous week and so feel fairly sure that there was no new particular trouble..."), going onto describe various chemical experiments Turing was undertaking at home ("...a typical expression of Alan's desire to make things for himself. When I was there he had made some quite respectable caustic soda... Also I noticed among the bottles of bought chemicals that there was some potassium cyanide..."), and giving three possible explanations for his state of mind ("...1. That he had determined to pretty well give up sex... 2. He was beginning to be disappointed by the lack of clear cut results from the analysis... 3. Perhaps an effect of the psychoanalysis was to bring on an irrational despair..."), ending by notifying him of Turing's bequests ("...I inherit his books and manuscripts..."), hoping to find someone to prepare Turing's work on fir cones for publication and asking him if there are "...any books or things you would like...". Second letter one page 4to" [16, 23 or 30 June 1954]; written in faded red ink, thanking him for his letter of October and enclosing "the bible" [not present here], mentioning "...I have passed on your version of the invention of 'ACE' to Newman so my myth won't be repeated in the Royal Society obituary!..." In these recently discovered and unpublished letters, Robin Gandy (1919-1995), Turing's great friend, colleague and executor, writes in response to a letter from Donald Bayley, written on 14 June 1954, just one week after Alan Turing was found dead, seemingly from suicide by cyanide poisoning. Gandy's letter reflects the bewilderment and shock experienced by those who knew Turing best. The inquest into Turing's death found for the verdict of suicide, citing as indicators that Turing had recently drawn up a will and had also been undertaking experiments to manufacture cyanide. A newspaper report of their findings is included. Gandy's opinion on the verdict is less clear cut ("...I can't say this couldn't be so, though I rather doubt it..."), something which chimes with the opinion of his close friends and his mother, Sara, who was convinced the death was accidental, but nevertheless accepted the verdict. Gandy had spent a happy weekend with Turing just the week before, and he found Turing's mental health much improved, especially since attending sessions with his psychoanalyst Franz Greenbaum ("...he found it increasingly easy to recount – with much humorous detail – his sagas. In fact he struck me as rather more settled than usual..."). Gandy does, however, offer three possible reasons for a disturbed state of mind, despite Turing being at a high point in his career. Bayley and Gandy had become lifelong friends whilst working with Alan Turing at Hanslope Park during the war. Gandy shared a cottage with Turing and the three men spent VE Day together. Bayley's letter to Gandy, which prompted this reply, is held in the Turing Archive at King's College, Cambridge (AMT/A/5). In it he asks Gandy for his thoughts on what might have happened: '...I thought at first he was in trouble again...' Bayley writes, '...Even if so, he knew we would support him as we had before. It's a complete mystery to me because he did enjoy life so much – apart from that one aspect...', going on to say that although he hadn't seen Turing since the previous October, when they had spent a weekend together in Wilmslow, they had exchanged Christmas cards ('... I thought of him a lot and I shall miss him terribly...'). Gandy's reference to "the bible" could possibly refer to Turing's copy of Jahnke and Emde's Tables of Functions, which Bayley had chosen as a keepsake from Turing's effects. Donald Bayley (1921-2020), electrical engineer and collaborator of Alan Turing during the Second World War on the 'Delilah' project, a functioning portable speech-encryption system.

Price £4500.00

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