If you don't know who Alan Turing was, then shame on you. The British code breaker, mathematics genius and father of both computer science and artificial intelligence is rightly credited with helping to bring the second world war to an end. Turing was also gay, and that's where the shame has stuck firmly on the UK establishment for more than 60 years. Turing was convicted for 'homosexual activity' in 1952, and his punishment was to be chemically castrated.
This shameful and appaling conviction meant that Turing was unable to continue his pioneering code-breaking work at Bletchley Park as he lost his security clearance. He also lost his life, committing suicide just two years later. Now, some 59 years after his death, Alan Turing has finally been given a pardon by Queen Elizabeth II under the 'Royal Prerogative of Mercy'.
Turing is widely credited with shortening the second world war by at least two years thanks to his work that helped crack the German Enigma codes at Bletchley Park. He went on, after the war, to work for the UK Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) until his security clearance was revoked thanks to that conviction. He died as a result of suicide poisoning, assumed a suicide at the age of just 41 although some gay rights campaigners have today called for a full investigation into the possibility that he was murdered by British intelligence forces as he was perversely considered a threat to national security because of a combination of his knowledge and sexual orientation.
I'm a hacker turned writer and consultant, specialising in IT security. I've been a freelance word punk for over 20 years and along the way I have seen 23 of my books published, produced and presented programmes for TV and radio, picked up a bunch of awards and continue being a contributing editor with PC Pro - the best selling IT magazine in the UK .
It was probably due to his conviction he finally killed himself.
I sometimes wonder with what mathematical marvels he would have come up with, if he could have lived longer.
I read "The annotated Turing" by Charles Petzold, telling some history and explaining his famous paper on computability. With some explanations by Petzold this paper is still hard to follow for non mathematicians like me, but nevertheless, it was an enjoyable read.
While I think gays are missing out (tho' the other option is always a challenge), their personal choices are theirs alone. I admire this man for what he did professionally (nice Wikipedia link). Shame on England for taking so long to correct the grave injustice they were responsible for. Thanks for sharing!!!
Interesting article. Anyone who loves programming will appreciate this guy's work and the term 'turing complete' comes from this guy.
Reading about how those Enigma machines used to work to roll out/crack codes was fascinating.
In regards, to his sexuality... Yeah, pretty much in everyday life we don't pay much attention or concern to such matters. Mostly, it is talked about with disgust or perversion and with a sense of ridicule. There is still apparently some debate as to whether it is nature or nurture -(I don't want to open up a flame war thread). However, if you know anyone who is gay/lesbian (friend/family) you will know who they are is certainly no choice or trivial matter.
Luckily, I'll never have to endure such hostility as a straight man. But I do feel sorry for them.
And for those who are open to looking at things from their POV to help understand their plight try checking out the following youtube vid. Puts things in perspective.
Turing was a great man, and who knows what he would have accomplished with more time.
That said, even today people who don't have the politically correct sexual orientation are considered security risks. The problem is that there is still a stigma attached to homosexuality. This makes homosexuals more vulnerable to various kinds of blackmail.
Today we see more and more big names coming out of the closet, and some are quite proud of it. And well should be. But they are the tip of the iceberg. There are still a lot of people who would rather pay, or even die rather than have their secret come out.
I don't think the general public will ever know all of the details of espionage and counter-espionage agencies' activities during the cold war, but I would be willing to bet that homosexuals were considered easy targets. Possibly because of the way that the Turing travesty turned out.