David Malone‘s documentary on 4 brilliant minds whose genius could not save them from their tragic deaths. Cantor, Boltzman, Godel and Turing.
Mathematican Georg Cantor (1845 -1918) was the first to make any real headway into the seemingly impossible concepts, contradictions and impenetrable mathematics of infinity. It drove him mad and he ended up dying in a sanatorium.
Ludwig Boltzman (1844 – 1906) was a hugely influential Austrin physicist who advocated atomic theory when it was still purely theoretical. His theories, and their lack of acceptance among his contemporaries, drove him into great depression and he eventuall killed himself. Tragically his suicide came just before experiments were to prove his theories correct.
Kurt Godel (1906 – 1978) was a mathematician, philospher and one of the greatest logicians of all time. He turn the world of mathematics upside down with his incompleteness theorems, which proved that there were certain things within mathematics that were fundamentally unknowable. A great friend of Alber Einstein, and a permanent member of the famous Institute of Advanced Study at Princeton, he suffered greatly from paranoia in later life and wouldn’t eat for fear of being poisoned. Perhaps unsurprisingly he eventually starved himself to death.
Alan Turing (1912 – 1954) was one of the greatest and most influential minds of the 20th century. He is also one of its most tragic figures. It could be argued that no individual has so greatly shaped the world we live in today. A brilliant mathematician and logician he often called the father of computer science and artificial intelligence, his theories are the basis for all the computer programming that dominate the world around us. At Bletchley Park, he also played a key role in cracking the Enigma machine, breaking German military cyphers and thus changing the course of the war. In a just world Turing’s statue would be on every street corner. In reality he suffered one of the greatest injustices in modern times. In 1952, just 7 years after the end of the war, he was prosecuted under English law for his homosexuality and was offered the choice of imprisonment or chemical castration. Unwilling to go to jail he was put on a course of female hormones which drove him into a deep depression. At the age of 41 he took his own life by eating an apple laced with cyanide. We can only imagine what further contributions he would have made to the world had he lived.