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British PM acknowledges and apologises for treatment of Alan Turing

Posted by Preston on 2009-09-11

Anyone who has either an understanding of the role that the computers played in World War II, or has a formal training in computer science will instantly recognise the name Alan Turing. An incredibly intelligent mathematician and one of the founding fathers (if you will) of computer science, Alan Turing was a giant of his time.

However, his profound contribution to the start of computer science and more importantly, the code breaking in World War II, was not enough to save him from an utterly draconian punishment for the crime of being who he was. This punishment, and the extreme psychological pressures that came with it, led to his suicide in 1954.

So while his punishment and his suicide should never have happened, it’s gratifying to at last see an official apology for his treatment come from the British government.

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2 Responses to “British PM acknowledges and apologises for treatment of Alan Turing”

  1. Andrew Steele said

    One of the comments at the office here summarised it starkly: If England had know Alan Turing was gay, the Allies would have lost the war.

    • Preston said

      That would certainly seem to be true. It may be possible to argue about the contributions made by others in the code breaking activities conducted during WWII, but Turing’s contributions were fundamentally instrumental and irrefutable.

      (At least these days Britain has made great steps in achieving equal rights – certainly a heck of a lot further than Australia!)

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