Alan Turing, Code-Breaking Genius, Wasn't Very Good at Monopoly

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Bletchley Park releases a game reminiscent of the one the code-breaker himself used to play.

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Bletchley Park

Alan Turing was unparalleled as a cryptographer, as a computer science pioneer, as an enigmatic intellect. He was, however, astoundingly average as a Monopoly player. 

When Turing was at Bletchley Park in the early 1950s, he often spent time with the children of his colleague, the mathematician Max Newman. Newman's son William, then a teenager, once made a makeshift version of a Monopoly board featuring not only the familiar layout, but also some additions -- including a diagonal path on the board that, one theory goes, might have prevented Turing from concocting a mathematical strategy that would have won the game for him.

That theory exists because Turing lost the game. To kids.

Here's the board in question: 

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Now, to commemorate that event -- and to commemorate Turing himself, who, despite having been treated egregiously during his lifetime, is enjoying a posthumous renaissance during what would have been his 100th year -- there's a new version of Newman's makeshift Monopoly game. One manufactured by the custom board game maker Winning Moves -- and one whose production, at least for the first 1,000 sets, has been paid for by Google. The game itself features houses and hotels with "huts" and "blocks," the names given to buildings within the Park complex. And the spaces feature locations important in Turing's life, including his birthplace and schools. The set's iconic Community Chest and Chance cards have also been given the Turing treatment, while utilities are replaced by the Enigma Machine and Bombe, used to decipher Engima codes. Perhaps the cheekiest part: Turing's face appears on all the money in the game -- a nod to the U.K.'s petition to have the pioneering scientist featured on its £10 note.

The set, which will be available in November and sold through the Bletchley Park store, will also include a reproduction of William Newman's original version of "Monopoly," complete with the game's ingenious, and possibly even genius-foiling, extra channel.

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Megan Garber is a staff writer at The Atlantic. She was formerly an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab, where she wrote about innovations in the media.

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