In 1952, Turing published “The Chemical Basis of Morphogenesis,” which demonstrated his theory to explain the formation of repeating patterns we often find in nature, such as zebra stripes and jaguar spots. He guessed that a dance between just two components, an inhibitor and an activator, could be responsible. Turing worked backwards from this simple idea, eventually replicating the creation of stripes, spots and splotches with a neatly defined set of equations. At the time, there was no way to biologically reproduce the imaginary mechanisms Turing built his concept around, so his paper gained little attention.
Decades after Alan Turing’s death, science and technology would finally progress enough for scientists to generate his patterns on slabs of gel. Even outside his work in computing and artificial intelligence, Turing’s legacy continues to echo far beyond his time. Today, scientists are continuing to find uses for his masterpiece in theoretical biology. Alan Turing had one thought that now seems to have infinite applications. The simplicity of his theory allowed it to translate well into other areas. The seed of his idea has grown into examinations of the number of petals on a daisy, waves in desert sands, financial market movements and the shapes of galaxies.