UK finally pardons computer pioneer Alan Turing

Dec 23, 2013 by Raphael Satter

His code breaking prowess helped the Allies outfox the Nazis, his theories laid the foundation for the computer age, and his work on artificial intelligence still informs the debate over whether machines can think.

But Alan Turing was gay, and 1950s Britain punished the mathematician's sexuality with a , intrusive surveillance and meant to extinguish his sex drive.

Now, nearly half a century after the war hero's suicide, Queen Elizabeth II has finally granted Turing a pardon.

"Turing was an exceptional man with a brilliant mind," Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said in a prepared statement released Tuesday. Describing Turing's treatment as unjust, Grayling said the code breaker "deserves to be remembered and recognized for his fantastic contribution to the war effort and his legacy to science."

The pardon has been a long time coming.

Turing's contributions to science spanned several disciplines, but he's perhaps best remembered as the architect of the effort to crack the Enigma code, the cypher used by Nazi Germany to secure its military communications. Turing's groundbreaking work—combined with the effort of cryptanalysts at Bletchley Park near Oxford and the capture of several Nazi code books—gave the Allies the edge across half the globe, helping them defeat the Italians in the Mediterranean, beat back the Germans in Africa and escape enemy submarines in the Atlantic.

"It could be argued and it has been argued that he shortened the war, and that possibly without him the Allies might not have won the war," said David Leavitt, the author of a book on Turing's life and work. "That's highly speculative, but I don't think his contribution can be underestimated. It was immense."

Even before the war, Turing was formulating ideas that would underpin modern computing, ideas which matured into a fascination with and the notion that machines would someday challenge the minds of man. When the war ended, Turing went to work programing some of the world's first computers, drawing up—among other things—one of the earliest chess games.

Turing made no secret of his sexuality, and being gay could easily lead to prosecution in post-war Britain. In 1952, Turing was convicted of "gross indecency" over his relationship with another man, and he was stripped of his security clearance, subjected to monitoring by British authorities, and forced to take estrogen to neutralize his sex drive—a process described by some as chemical castration.

S. Barry Cooper, a University of Leeds mathematician who has written about Turing's work, said future generations would struggle to understand the code breaker's treatment.

"You take one of your greatest scientists, and you invade his body with hormones," he said in a telephone interview. "It was a national failure."

Depressed and angry, Turing committed suicide in 1954.

Turing's legacy was long obscured by secrecy—"Even his mother wasn't allowed to know what he'd done," Cooper said. But as his contribution to the war effort was gradually declassified, and personal computers began to deliver on Turing's promise of "universal machines," the injustice of his conviction became ever more glaring. Then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown issued an apology for Turing's treatment in 2009, but campaigners kept pressing for a formal pardon.

One of them, British lawmaker Iain Stewart, told The Associated Press he was delighted with the news that one had finally been granted.

"He helped preserve our liberty," Steward said in a telephone interview. "We owed it to him in recognition of what he did for the country—and indeed the free world—that his name should be cleared."

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TheGhostofOtto1923
1.4 / 5 (9) Dec 23, 2013
So 70 years ago gaydom was an obvious abomination but somewhere between then and now it became something normal and acceptable. How come?

Back then the west was still filling up the world with white people. Predetermined demographic goals had to be met. And so non-procreative sex of any and all sorts was banned in the strictest sense. Onanism was a clear sign of derangement and would get you committed to an asylum for the criminally insane.

But shortly after the wars western pops were replenished and the US had been filled to capacity. The shift from quantity to quality would begin. Women were given the freedom to choose the father of each and every child she chose to bear. Porn was legalized. Sex became a form of entertainment.

Conception during adolescence, traditionally the most fertile period of human prehistory, was now the abomination of abominations. Higher education for everybody closed the window even further.

Mating according to Plan is key to maintaining a healthy herd.
BSD
4.8 / 5 (8) Dec 23, 2013
Well how spiffing of the British Government and the Queen on giving him a pardon.

It took sixty one years after he was prosecuted and fifty nine years after the poor man committed suicide. It shouldn't be a pardon, that is like saying "Well you did something wrong, but we'll let you off." An apology and all charges and dismissed would have been more appropriate. Considering British politics was and still is full of gay people, it is rather hypocritical.

THE MAN SHORTENED THE WAR AND WENT ALONG WAY TO SAVING BRITAIN AND IT'S ALLIES AND THIS IS THE BEST IT COULD DO?

Pathetic, too little, too late.
Squirrel
3.7 / 5 (3) Dec 24, 2013
Raise now a statue of him in Trafalgar Square.
thatsitalright
5 / 5 (4) Dec 24, 2013
Well how spiffing of the British Government and the Queen on giving him a pardon.

It took sixty one years after he was prosecuted and fifty nine years after the poor man committed suicide. It shouldn't be a pardon, that is like saying "Well you did something wrong, but we'll let you off." An apology and all charges and dismissed would have been more appropriate.


The article says that an apology was issued in 2009. Apparently that wasn't good enough for the campaigners, so now, finally a pardon was issued. What does it matter at this point, it's all just formalities. They could dismiss charges, award him a citizen's medal, and even give him a statue.

The old guard is gone, the new guard is sympathetic at least. Railing against the establishment does not fix history.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1.8 / 5 (5) Dec 24, 2013
THE MAN SHORTENED THE WAR AND WENT ALONG WAY TO SAVING BRITAIN AND IT'S ALLIES AND THIS IS THE BEST
-You don't understand what a serious crime it was back then. And non-procreative sex will again be deemed crimes if ever there is a need to replenish populations; after war or pandemic or collapse.

And religions will be given the authority to insist upon it, as this sort of thing is central to their books.

" There is a time to embrace and a time to refrain." Ecc3

-Morality is whatever our Shepherds SAY it is. They decide what, They decide when, and They decide where. And right now They are saying that non-procreative sex is essential to limiting pop growth in the west, and allowing for an influx of new genetic material from the third world.

"God tests us so that we may see we are like the animals." Ecc3

-The bible is an instruction manual for the maintenance of an Empire. It tells Leaders how to manage the flock. They know that people will do anything for immortality.
antialias_physorg
4.2 / 5 (10) Dec 24, 2013
I don't get it. If anyone needs a pardon it's the UK for having condemned him in the first place. Not that there is anyone who could give out such a pardon.

'Pardon' means 'to forgive'. The man did nothing wrong - there is nothing he needs forgiveness for.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1.7 / 5 (6) Dec 24, 2013
'Pardon' means 'to forgive'. The man did nothing wrong - there is nothing he needs forgiveness for.
Well this is an easy one.

"Pardon
tr.v. par·doned, par·don·ing, par·dons
1. To release (a person) from punishment; exempt from penalty: a convicted criminal who was pardoned by the governor."

-Turing broke a serious law and was rightly convicted. So did Oscar Wilde. So did Galileo for that matter. Doesn't matter if the laws changed afterward. There was a purpose for them at the time.
Skepticus
3.9 / 5 (7) Dec 24, 2013
All this injustice are due to the moronic interpretations of Jesus' teachings. As with most followers long after the leader's original teachings, almost everyone of them thereafter are so full of crap.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1.7 / 5 (3) Dec 24, 2013
All this injustice are due to the moronic interpretations of Jesus' teachings... so full of crap.
The surviving religions are those which were best at outgrowing and overrunning their enemies. This is an extension of the tribal dynamic. "Be fruitful and multiply - fill up the earth."

Many species have natural ways of limiting growth during times of perceived overpopulation. Rabbit does will absorb their fetuses in overcrowded warrens. Infanticide in many forms is common.

It is reasonable to assume that gaydom is a similar epigenetic response. Mothers who want to limit competition for repro rights for their firstborn, may epigenetically 'neuter' subsequent fetuses in the womb. Gays could still be productive in tribes without adding to their overgrowth.

Religions that seek to maximize growth would want to counter this natural tendency. Gays can and do reproduce when social pressure is great enough, even though they might not be enjoying themselves. Were most frigid women gay?
TheGhostofOtto1923
1.3 / 5 (3) Dec 24, 2013
"The "Duck Dynasty" flap has managed to goose ideologues across the political spectrum.

"With the comments made by the show's patriarch Phil Robertson equating homosexuality with bestiality in the now infamous GQ interview that hit the Internet last week, a show once considered escapist entertainment has become another beachhead in the ongoing ideological war in the United States."

-The show originates in Louisiana. Back in 1957, rocker jerry lee Lewis wed his 13yo cousin. In Louisiana at the time this was no big deal.

But jerry lee took his young bride with him on tour in Britain and when fans found out they booed him offstage and ran him out of the country.

The Deep South is one of the last bastions of a religionist culture configured to populate the country as quickly as possible. To do this it encouraged marriage at puberty, large families, and limited rights for women. And it vilified all forms of non-procreative sex.

GBR is an island nation with chronic overpopulation.
Arrowstone
not rated yet Dec 27, 2013
"-Turing broke a serious law and was rightly convicted. So did Oscar Wilde. So did Galileo for that matter. Doesn't matter if the laws changed afterward. There was a purpose for them at the time."

Referring to the "Nuremberg Laws" which were part of the German legal canon beginning in 1935 (and other later regulations), it's not clear why we should now censor the Nazi's if we flinch at censoring the British of the early 50's.

"Pardon' means 'to forgive'. The man did nothing wrong - there is nothing he needs forgiveness for. "
Now that's what I'm talking about!