LONDON (Reuters) - Mathematician Alan Turing, who helped Britain win World War Two by cracking Nazi Germany's "unbreakable" Enigma code, was granted a rare royal pardon on Tuesday for a criminal conviction for homosexuality that led to his suicide.
Turing's electromechanical machine, a forerunner of modern computers, unraveled the code used by German U-boats in the Atlantic. His work at Bletchley Park, Britain's wartime codebreaking centre, was credited with shortening the war.
However, he was stripped of his job and chemically castrated with injections of female hormones after being convicted of gross indecency in 1952 for having sex with a man. Homosexual sex was illegal in Britain until 1967.
Turing killed himself in 1954, aged 41, with cyanide.
Justice Minister Chris Grayling said the pardon from Queen Elizabeth would come into effect immediately and was a fitting tribute to "an exceptional man with a brilliant mind".
"His brilliance was put into practice at Bletchley Park during the Second World War where he was pivotal to breaking the 'Enigma' code, helping to end the war and save thousands of lives," Grayling said in a statement.
"His later life was overshadowed by his conviction for homosexual activity, a sentence we would now consider unjust and discriminatory and which has now been repealed," he said.
Only four royal pardons had been granted since the end of World War Two, a spokeswoman for Grayling said.
Cosmologist Stephen Hawking and 10 other eminent scientists had campaigned for years for "one of the most brilliant mathematicians of the modern era" to be pardoned.
One of those scientists, Paul Nurse, President of the Royal Society, said, "The persecution of this great British scientist over his sexuality was tragic and I'm delighted that we can now focus solely on celebrating his legacy."
In 2009, then Prime Minister Gordon Brown publicly apologized on behalf of the government for "the appalling way" Turing was treated but campaigners called for a full pardon.
In May 2012, a private member's bill was put before the House of Lords in the British parliament to grant Turing a statutory pardon and in July it gained government support.
Cameron on Tuesday described Turing as "a remarkable man who played a key role in saving this country in World War Two".
"His action saved countless lives. He also left a remarkable national legacy through his substantial scientific achievements, often being referred to as the father of modern computing." Cameron said in a statement.
The work at Bletchley Park, a secluded country house north of London, only became public knowledge in the 1970s when its role in the war and that played by Turing was revealed.
The cryptographers who worked there are credited with helping to shorten World War Two by up to two years and they deciphered around 3,000 German military messages a day.
Turing's team cracked the Enigma code, which the Germans regarded as unbreakable, as well as designing and developing Colossus, one of the first programmable computers.
But after the war, Prime Minister Winston Churchill ordered the Colossus computers and 200 "Turing bombe" machines be destroyed to keep them secret from the Soviet Union.
Computer pioneer and codebreaker Alan Turing has been given a posthumous royal pardon.
It addresses his 1952 conviction for homosexuality for which he was punished by being chemically castrated.
The conviction meant he lost his security clearance and had to stop the code-cracking work that had proved vital to the Allies in World War Two.
The pardon was granted under the Royal Prerogative of Mercy after a request by Justice Minister Chris Grayling.
"Dr Alan Turing was an exceptional man with a brilliant mind," said Mr Grayling.
He said the research Turing carried out during the war at Bletchley Park undoubtedly shortened the conflict and saved thousands of lives.
Turing's work helped accelerate Allied efforts to read German Naval messages enciphered with the Enigma machine. He also contributed some more fundamental work on codebreaking that was only released to public scrutiny in April 2012.
"His later life was overshadowed by his conviction for homosexual activity, a sentence we would now consider unjust and discriminatory and which has now been repealed," said Mr Grayling.
"Turing deserves to be remembered and recognised for his fantastic contribution to the war effort and his legacy to science. A pardon from the Queen is a fitting tribute to an exceptional man."
The pardon comes into effect on 24 December.
Turing died in June 1954 from cyanide poisoning and an inquest decided that he had committed suicide. However, biographers, friends and other students of his life dispute the finding and suggest his death was an accident.
Many people have campaigned for years to win a pardon for Turing.
Lord Sharkey, a Liberal Democrat peer who wrote a private member's bill calling for a royal pardon in July 2012, said the decision was "wonderful news".
"This has demonstrated wisdom and compassion," he said. "It has recognised a very great British hero and made some amends for the cruelty and injustice with which Turing was treated."
Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said: "I pay tribute to the government for ensuring Alan Turing has a royal pardon at last but I do think it's very wrong that other men convicted of exactly the same offence are not even being given an apology, let alone a royal pardon.
"We're talking about at least 50,000 other men who were convicted of the same offence, of so-called gross indecency, which is simply a sexual act between men with consent."
Mr Tatchell said he would like to see Turing's death fully investigated.
"While I have no evidence that he was murdered, I do think we need to explore the possibility that he may have been killed by the security services. He was regarded as a high security risk," he said.
Glyn Hughes, the sculptor of the Alan Turing Memorial in Manchester, said it was "very gratifying" that he had finally been pardoned.
"When we set out to try and make him famous - get him recognised - it was really difficult to collect money," he said.
"None of the big computer companies would stump up a penny for a memorial.
They perhaps would now - we've come a very long way."
But he said he was "not entirely comfortable" that Turing had been pardoned while thousands of other gay men had not.
"The problem is, of course, if there was a general pardon for men who had been prosecuted for homosexuality, many of them are still alive and they could get compensation."
In December 2011, an e-petition was created on the Direct Gov site that asked for Turing to be pardoned. It received more than 34,000 signatures but its request was denied by the then justice secretary, Lord McNally, who said Turing was "properly convicted" for what was at the time a criminal offence.
Prior to that in August 2009, a petition was started to request a pardon. It won an official apology from the prime minister at the time, Gordon Brown, who said the way Turing was persecuted over his homosexuality was "appalling".
Courtesy The Pink Triange Trust
[From Seattle Gay News December 27, 2013]
The UK Gay Humanist charity the Pink Triangle Trust ( PTT) has warmly welcomed the posthumous royal pardon granted to Alan Turing, the Gay atheist code-breaking genius and father of the modern computer, who committed suicide in 1954 after being punished for homosexuality by being chemically castrated.
In 2009 thousands of people added their names to the on-line petition calling for the Government to recognise the 'consequences of prejudice' that ended the life of the scientist aged just 41.
Notable among the petition's signatories was the well-known atheist and Humanist Professor Richard Dawkins who said that this would 'send a signal to the world which needs to be sent,' and that Turing might still be alive today if it were not for the repressive, religion-influenced laws, which drove him to despair.
The author of The God Delusion, who presented a television programme for Channel 4 on Turing, said the impact of the mathematician's war work could not be overstated. 'Turing arguably made a greater contribution to defeating the Nazis than Eisenhower or Churchill. Thanks to Turing and his 'Ultra' colleagues at Bletchley Park, Allied generals in the field were consistently, over long periods of the war, privy to detailed German plans before the German generals had time to implement them.
'After the war, when Turing's role was no longer top-secret, he should have been knighted and fêted as a saviour of his nation. Instead, this gentle, stammering, eccentric genius was destroyed, for a 'crime,' committed in private, which harmed nobody,' he said. Professor Dawkins also called for a permanent financial endowment to support Bletchley Park, where Turing helped break the Nazi Enigma code.
PTT secretary George Broadhead commented: 'It was great to have such a prominent atheist and Humanist as Richard Dawkins supporting the campaign for Turing to be pardoned and it is significant that he identified religious-influenced laws as being to blame for Turing's suicide.
'As a Gay atheist Alan Turing is a Humanist hero and a pardon is long overdue. However, I agree with other LGBT activists that it's wrong that the many other men convicted of exactly the same offence are not even being given an apology, let alone a pardon.'
* * * * * * * * * *
The Pink Triangle Trust is named after the pink triangle that Gay men had to wear in the Nazi concentration camps. The registered charity was set up in 1992 to advance the education of the public and particularly of Lesbians and Gay men, in the principles and practice of Humanism and to advance the education of the public, and particularly of Humanists, about all aspects of homosexuality. It may also assist individuals to obtain remedies under the law where they have suffered unlawful discrimination on account of their homosexuality or their Humanism.
The PTT is: A member of the International Humanist and Ethical Union, a member of the Cutting Edge Consortium, a member of the Alliance for a Secular Europe, a sponsor of Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans History Month, a sponsor of the Uganda Humanist Schools Trust (UK), a supporter of the Secular Europe Campaign, a supporter of the Nigerian Humanist Movement, supporter of Galop (London's leading anti-LGBT hate crime charity).
The Pink Triangle Trust, Spring House, 34 Spring Lane, Kenilworth, Warwickshire CV8 2HB, United Kingdom. Tel. 44 (0)1926 858450; www.thepinktriangletrust.com.
Society & Culture
BMutiny - thepetitionsite.com
Famed Enigma code-cracker Alan Turing was once convicted by the British government simply because he was gay. In December, 2013, he received a Royal Pardon from Queen Elizabeth II.
This is a much needed dose of justice, but there are at least 15,000 other men still alive today who, like Turing, were also convicted of Gross Indecency for no other reason than their being in a same-sex relationship. What about them?
We the undersigned call on the British Government to take swift action and create a bill to pardon these men, too. Being gay should never have been a crime. Pardoning them won't erase what happened, but it will send a firm message to the rest of the world that criminalizing homosexuality is never acceptable.