Auctioned notebook contains secrets of WWII codebreaker

A math notebook sold at auction in New York on Monday.

Not just any math notebook, this one belonged to the cryptographer portrayed in the oscar-nominated film "The Imitation Game" -- the genius credited with breaking the German military code and bringing World War II to an earlier end.

While British math genius Alan Turing was breaking the German's enigma code during World War II, he kept a notebook.

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Alan Turing's notebook was auctioned at Bonham's on Monday. CBS News

"He's working on saving Europe and the world during the day. And he's coming home at night and doing peer mathematics in his free time," said Cassandra Hatton, who is with Bonham's which auctioned the notebook of calculations by the man many consider the father of the modern computer.

The subject of the oscar-winning film "The Imitation Game," Turing's groundbreaking work at Bletchley Park outside London was done in anonymity.

What was happening there was top secret. "Absolutely top secret," said Bletchley Park archivist Victoria Walpole.

Last fall, CBS Sunday Morning visited "Hut 8," where Turing and his team used a captured German enigma machine to create their own code breaking machine, which still works.

"It's the only working one in the world," said engineer Tony Jarvis.

The enigma of WWII codebreaker Alan Turing

Turing's machine, it's said, shortened the war by two years.

"For the first part of the war the family didn't even know where he was based," said Sir John Dermot Turing, Alan Turing's nephew. He said even he didn't know what Turing had been doing.

"We crowded 'round this small black and white TV set that we had at home in the 70s to find out when the BBC put out a little program on it," he said. "That's how we found out."

Arrested in 1952 for "gross indecency" with another man, Turing would take his own life at age 41, long before the world understood what he'd accomplished.

But with his notebook selling to an anonymous bidder Monday for just over $1 million, the value of Alan Turing's achievements is at last being appreciated.

  • Anthony Mason

    CBS News senior business and economics correspondent; Co-host, "CBS This Morning: Saturday"