Chances are most of you know what the Turing Test is, and therefore have a passable familiarity with Alan Turing, one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Important People of the 20th century. For most people, knowledge of the man stops there. Some might know that he was a fantastic mathematician and cryptanalyst responsible for much of the code-breaking success of the UK’s Bletchley Park during WWII, including much of the work that lead to the breaking of the German Enigma machine codes.
Some might know that he was a homosexual. I’d wager that few knew that he was persecuted by the UK government for that. I didn’t know that he had been chemically castrated as part of his “rehabilitation” for gross indecency. The charge also resulted in revocation of his security clearance, and effectively ended his government work. Two years after his conviction, he was found dead of an apparent suicide.
Now a petition is underway to get the British government to formally apologize for its treatment of Turing. Organized by computer scientist John Graham-Cumming, more than 5,000 signatures have been collected, including writer Ian McEwan and scientist Richard Dawkins.
We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to apologize for the prosecution of Alan Turing that led to his untimely death.
Alan Turing was the greatest computer scientist ever born in Britain. He laid the foundations of computing, helped break the Nazi Enigma code and told us how to tell whether a machine could think.
He was also gay. He was prosecuted for being gay, chemically castrated as a ‘cure’, and took his own life, aged 41.
The British Government should apologize to Alan Turing for his treatment and recognize that his work created much of the world we live in and saved us from Nazi Germany. And an apology would recognize the tragic consequences of prejudice that ended this man’s life and career.
Via the BBC.