Key Stage 3 Secondary Secondary Maths

Did you know? Notes from the history of Maths

Apple Inc. logo

The logo used by Apple computers is recognised worldwide.  Its origin has also been the subject of much speculation. The original logo for the company showed Newton under an apple tree. This was replaced by the familiar logo in 1976. The most elaborate explanation of its design is that it refers to the death of Alan Turing (1912-1954). Turing is famous for his work on breaking the German Enigma Code during the war.  He formulated ideas about general purpose computers and helped design one of the first stored program computers after the war. Later he worked on mathematical biology including “Fibonacci phylotaxis” – the presence of Fibonacci numbers in the distribution of plant leaves.


Turing was homosexual at a time when this was illegal. In 1952, following a burglary, Turing admitted this to the police. This led to his conviction and, rather than face imprisonment, he accepted chemical castration (injection of oestrogen). This year, on Christmas Eve, Turing was given a posthumous royal pardon.

Some have suggested that he found his conviction humiliating and he committed suicide by eating an apple laced with cyanide. He did die of cyanide poisoning and a half-eaten apple was found by his body though it was never tested for cyanide. This version is given further credence by reports that Turing was much taken with the story of Snow White who is given a poisoned apple. So it is quite credible that the Apple logo, in the rainbow colours of gay pride and a bite removed, refers to the death of Turing.

Original Apple logo

However, the designer of the logo Rob Janoff, said in 2009, that the apple was chosen to give a friendly image to the new computer company, contrasting it to the rivals that had very technical sounding names. Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Mike Markula, who set up Apple Computers, were targeting the home and school, rather than business, markets. The colour stripes were to promote the Apple II, which was one of the first computers to have a colour monitor. What about the bite? Some think it refers to ‘byte’ being the number of 0 or 1s to code a character in computing. However, Janoff admitted he had not known the term when he produced the design. In fact, he said he put the bite in the design to give a sense of scale, so that people did not think it was a drawing of a cherry!

There is also alternative explanation to Turing’s supposed suicide. He had set up some electroplating apparatus near his bedroom and this process used potassium cyanide. His parents, at the time, claimed his death was accidental. Speculation will continue. Just recently, following all the revelations about state surveillance by Edward Snowden, it has been suggested that he was murdered by the secret services as he knew too much about the code breaking activities of government.

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