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Joan CLARKE, later Mrs Murray (1917–1996)

Joan Clarke

Joan Elisabeth Lowther Clarke was born on 24 June 1917 in West Norwood, London and baptised at All Saints Church, Dulwich on 29 July. She was the daughter of the Revd William Kemp Lowther Clarke (1879–1968, portrait) and Dorothy Elizabeth Fulford, who were married at Cambridge in 1907.

Joan went up to Newnham College, Cambridge, and the 1939 register describes her as a university student and a nursing auxiliary with the Red Cross. She was then living with her parents at 193 Rosendale Road, Lambeth.

Joan gained a double-first in Mathematics and in June 1940 joined the Government Code and Cypher School (GCCS) at Bletchley Park, where she was the only woman in Hut 8 working on the Naval Enigma Code. One of the three men working there was Alan Turing, who was a friend of her brother, and for a brief period in 1941 she was engaged to him:

After the war Joan worked for GCHQ (as GCCS had become). Here she met Lieutenant-Colonel John Kenneth Ronald Murray, a retired army officer, and they were married in 1952: they had no children.

Her husband suffered from ill health, and shortly after their marriage they moved to Crail in Scotland, where Joan gained an interest in numismatic history from her husband.

In 1962 they moved to Cheltenham, and Joan rejoined the CGHQ.

Joan retired in 1977 at the age of 60, and developed her interest in Scottish numismatic history. Her husband died in 1986, and initially she remained at Uckingham near Cheltenham.

She continued her work as a numismatist here, winning the British Numismatist Society's Sanford Saltus medal in 1987 for her research into coinage in circulation during the reigns of kings James III and James IV of Scotland.

In 1991 she moved to 7 Larkfields in Headington Quarry (below), and attended Holy Trinity Church.

7 Larkfields

Murray blue plaque

In 1992 she gave this interview to the Horizon programme about her brief engagement to Alan Turing.

She died at 7 Larkfields at the age of 79 on 4 September 1996. A blue plaque (right) was unveiled on her house on 27 July 2019.

Joan was portrayed by Keira Knightly in the 2014 film The Imitation Game, opposite Benedict Cumberbatch, who played Turing:

Hers was one of the ten images on “Trailblazers” posters unveiled in March 2017 to mark Women's History Month:

For details of Joan Clarke's important work as a cryptanalyst at Bletchley Park,
see article by Lynsey Ann Lord of St Andrew's University.

Wikipedia: Joan Clarke

There is a much fuller entry on Joan Clarke Murray, Cryptanalyst and numismatist,
in the online Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

© Stephanie Jenkins

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