Turing’s 1949 Paper in Context

  • Cliff B. Jones
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 10307)


Anyone who has written one knows how frustratingly difficult it can be to perfect a computer program. Some of the founding fathers of computing set out ideas for reasoning about software — one would say today ‘techniques for proving that a program satisfies its specification’. Alan Turing presented a paper entitled Checking a Large Routine that laid out a workable method for reasoning about programs. Sadly his paper had little impact. Understanding the problem faced, Turing’s proposal and what followed provides insight into how ideas evolve. Comparing three contributions from the 1940s with the current state of the art clarifies a problem that still costs society a fortune each year.


Formal Method Turing Machine Proof Obligation Current Author Machine Code 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



I should like to dedicate this paper to Lockwood Morris (1943–2014) who was a great but under-appreciated scientist. We worked together on [MJ84] when we were both in Oxford and he subsequently spent his sabbatical with me in Manchester. As well as many happy memories, Lockwood did me a great personal favour in December 2013 which was sadly the last time we met.

I am extremely grateful to Liesbeth de Mol for bringing Curry’s work to my attention and to Gerard Alberts for interesting input on van Wijngaarden. Comments from anonymous referees have also helped improve the paper although some of their suggestions will not fit in the page ration. My funding for this research comes from the EPSRC Strata Platform Grant.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Computing ScienceNewcastle UniversityNewcastle upon TyneUK

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