Big Data: How codebreakers helped transform healthcare
1 February 2018
Big data Public engagement & involvement Research methods & EBM
Professor Carl Heneghan, Director of the Centre for Evidence Based Medicine and Official Fellow of Kellogg College, discusses the role of code breaking in healthcare, linking it's use to the famous Enigma Machine and explains why the department is linking up with Kellogg College's upcoming 'Bletchley Park Week.'
“We can only see a short distance ahead, but we can see plenty there that needs to be done.”Alan Turing.
When you arrive at Bletchley Park, you might want to make your way to Hut 8 where Alan Turing and his colleagues deciphered Naval U-boat messages. Building on the idea of the Universal Turing Machine (one machine, for handling all programmable tasks), Turing and colleagues developed the Enigma machine.
Towards the end of World War II, the first programmable computer in the world, Colossus, was developed at Bletchley by Tommy Flower’s and colleagues to decode high level German military intelligence throughout occupied Europe. (A working Colossus can be seen at Bletchley Park).
In 2015 Royal Mail honoured Tommy Flowers with a first-class Colossus stamp.
The birth of modern computing can be traced back to many of these early developments at Bletchley Park. Beyond the war, the pace of development continued until in 1953, IBM, introduced the first commercial, scientific computer with memory, operating systems, storage and the ability to print. Within a decade computers had found their way into healthcare, mainly at this time to computerise billing and administrative tasks. It wasn’t until the late 80s, though, that computers were integrated into clinical care as a means to improve health.