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Sep 11, 2009

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LONDON, England (CNN) -- British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has issued a posthumous apology for the "appalling" treatment of Alan Turing, the British code-breaker who was chemically castrated for being gay.

A portrait of Alan Turing is currently on display at the National Portrait Gallery's

A portrait of Alan Turing is currently on display at the National Portrait Gallery's "Gay Icons" exhibition.

The apology came after more than 30,000 people signed an online petition on the UK Government Web site calling for the government to recognize the "tragic consequences of prejudice that ended this man's life and career."

Turing was just 41 years old when he committed suicide, two years after undergoing a court-ordered chemical castration. He had been found guilty of gross indecency for having a homosexual relationship. The punishment in 1952 was either a prison sentence or chemical castration. Turing chose the latter.

In a statement on the British Government Web site, Prime Minister Gordon Brown acknowledged Turing's "outstanding" contribution during World War II.

"He truly was one of those individuals we can point to whose unique contribution helped to turn the tide of war," he wrote, adding, "The debt of gratitude he is owed makes it all the more horrifying, therefore, that he was treated so inhumanely."

Turing is considered one of Britain's greatest mathematicians, a genius who is credited with inventing the Bombe, a code-breaking machine that deciphered messages encoded by German Enigma machines during World War II.

He went on to develop the Turing machine, a theory that automatic computation cannot solve all mathematical problems, which is considered the basis of modern computing.

Last month, the curious lack of public recognition for Turing's contribution to the war effort and computing in general motivated computer programmer John Graham-Cumming to campaign on his behalf.

The author of the "Geek Atlas," a travel guide for technology enthusiasts, started an online petition, and soon attracted high-profile signatories including scientist Richard Dawkins, actor Stephen Fry, author Ian McEwan and philosopher A.C. Grayling.

"I was surprised by both the number of people who signed and the fast response from the government," Graham-Cumming told CNN. He said the Prime Minister had called him personally to relay news of the apology.

Stories about calls for a British apology were carried in newspapers in France, Switzerland, Spain, Austria, Portugal Poland and the Czech Republic. Supporters set up an international petition which attracted more than 10,000 signatures.

Visibility: Everyone
Posted: Friday September 11, 2009, 12:28 pm
Tags: glbt computers gayrights lbgt primeminister Enigma Mathematician code-breaking gordonbrown Turing gayactivist bombe

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BMutiny TCorporationsEvil (467)
Friday September 11, 2009, 12:40 pm
The Prime Minister has written a response. Please read below.

Prime Minister: 2009 has been a year of deep reflection – a chance for Britain, as a nation, to commemorate the profound debts we owe to those who came before. A unique combination of anniversaries and events have stirred in us that sense of pride and gratitude which characterise the British experience. Earlier this year I stood with Presidents Sarkozy and Obama to honour the service and the sacrifice of the heroes who stormed the beaches of Normandy 65 years ago. And just last week, we marked the 70 years which have passed since the British government declared its willingness to take up arms against Fascism and declared the outbreak of World War Two. So I am both pleased and proud that, thanks to a coalition of computer scientists, historians and LGBT activists, we have this year a chance to mark and celebrate another contribution to Britain’s fight against the darkness of dictatorship; that of code-breaker Alan Turing.

Turing was a quite brilliant mathematician, most famous for his work on breaking the German Enigma codes. It is no exaggeration to say that, without his outstanding contribution, the history of World War Two could well have been very different. He truly was one of those individuals we can point to whose unique contribution helped to turn the tide of war. The debt of gratitude he is owed makes it all the more horrifying, therefore, that he was treated so inhumanely. In 1952, he was convicted of ‘gross indecency’ – in effect, tried for being gay. His sentence – and he was faced with the miserable choice of this or prison - was chemical castration by a series of injections of female hormones. He took his own life just two years later.

Thousands of people have come together to demand justice for Alan Turing and recognition of the appalling way he was treated. While Turing was dealt with under the law of the time and we can't put the clock back, his treatment was of course utterly unfair and I am pleased to have the chance to say how deeply sorry I and we all are for what happened to him. Alan and the many thousands of other gay men who were convicted as he was convicted under homophobic laws were treated terribly. Over the years millions more lived in fear of conviction.

I am proud that those days are gone and that in the last 12 years this government has done so much to make life fairer and more equal for our LGBT community. This recognition of Alan’s status as one of Britain’s most famous victims of homophobia is another step towards equality and long overdue.

But even more than that, Alan deserves recognition for his contribution to humankind. For those of us born after 1945, into a Europe which is united, democratic and at peace, it is hard to imagine that our continent was once the theatre of mankind’s darkest hour. It is difficult to believe that in living memory, people could become so consumed by hate – by anti-Semitism, by homophobia, by xenophobia and other murderous prejudices – that the gas chambers and crematoria became a piece of the European landscape as surely as the galleries and universities and concert halls which had marked out the European civilisation for hundreds of years. It is thanks to men and women who were totally committed to fighting fascism, people like Alan Turing, that the horrors of the Holocaust and of total war are part of Europe’s history and not Europe’s present.

So on behalf of the British government, and all those who live freely thanks to Alan’s work I am very proud to say: we’re sorry, you deserved so much better.

Gordon Brown
=====================================

If you would like to help preserve Alan Turing's memory for future generations, please donate here: http://www.bletchleypark.org.uk/

BMutiny TCorporationsEvil (467)
Saturday September 12, 2009, 9:11 am
More on Turing from Seattle Gay News:

More than 28,000 people have signed an official petition urging British Prime Minister Gordon Brown "to apologize for the prosecution of Alan Turing that led to his untimely death."
The petition is online at petitions.number10.gov.uk/turing/.
[N.B.: THE PRIME MINISTER HAS APOLOGIZED AND THAT PETITION IS NOW CLOSED. THE "INTERNATIONAL" PETITION STILL REMAINS OPEN. PLEASE SIGN IT. Site given above. BMT]

Turing, who was Gay, is considered to be the founder of modern computing and was credited with cracking Nazi military codes during World War II, helping save Britain from German conquest.

"Without Turing and other code-crackers, we might be living in the Third Reich," said leading Gay activist Peter Tatchell. "He helped us defeat fascism and win the war. Turing's arrest and conviction in 1952 for a consenting Gay relationship, and his subsequent chemical castration to supposedly 'cure' his homosexuality, were barbaric, inhuman abuses of a truly outstanding war hero."

"Removing his security clearance and preventing him from continuing his work at GCHQ {Government Communications Headquarters} was an added insult and humiliation, which ultimately drove him to depression and suicide in 1954. With Turing's death, Britain and the world lost one of its finest intellectual minds," Tatchell said.

Turing was one of some 100,000 British homosexuals convicted in the 20th century under laws that banned Gay sex, Tatchell said.

Author

BMutiny TCorporationsEvil
female, age 78, single, 1 child
Seattle, WA, USA
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