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Published on Sep 2, 2011
Few people remember Turing's work on pattern formation in biology (morphogenesis), but Turing's famous 1936 paper On Computable Numbers exerted an immense influence on the birth of molecular biology indirectly, through the work of John von Neumann on self-reproducing automata, which influenced Sydney Brenner who in turn influenced Francis Crick, the Crick of Watson and Crick, the discoverers of the molecular structure of DNA. Furthermore, von Neumann's application of Turing's ideas to biology is beautifully supported by recent work on evo-devo (evolutionary developmental biology). The crucial idea: DNA is multi-billion year old software, but we could not recognize it as such before Turing's 1936 paper, which according to von Neumann creates the idea of computer hardware and software.