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Alan Turing Finally Gets the Royal Pardon He Deserves

Alan Turing Finally Gets the Royal Pardon He Deserves

World War II codebreaker Alan Turing has received an official pardon from Britain’s queen, going some way to remedy his treatment by the state after they prosecuted him for being homosexual.

The pardon is somewhat special for the fact that it comes from Queen Elizabeth II and not from parliament. The pardon says:

WHEREAS Alan Mathison Turing at Knutsford Quarter Sessions on the 31st day of March 1952 pleaded guilty to and was convicted of divers counts of Gross Indecency contrary to Section 11 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885 and on that date sentence was postponed for a period of twelve months but the said Alan Mathison Turing was placed on Probation for a period of twelve months to submit for treatment by a duly qualified medical practitioner at Manchester Royal Infirmary;

AND WHEREAS the said Alan Mathison Turing died on the 7th day of June 1954;

Now know ye that we, in consideration of circumstances humbly represented to us, are graciously pleased to grant our grace and mercy unto the said Alan Mathison Turing and grant him our free pardon posthumously in respect of the said convictions.”

AND to pardon and remit unto him the sentence imposed on him aforesaid;

The posthumous pardon, called a Royal Prerogative of Mercy and requested by Justice Minister Chris Grayling, recognizes Turing as a figure of great historical importance. More than that, it officially addresses that the state did Turing an injustice by convicting him for homosexual acts in 1952 and pushing him toward chemical castration. It is widely believed (though not necessarily a settled matter) that Turing took his own life two years later, in part due to the treatment he received at the hands of a government for which he had worked so hard.

Turing is of course best remembered as a figure who was highly influential in Britain’s World War II effort to crack the German enigma code. Turing’s conviction meant that he subsequently lost his security clearance and was practically cut off from the official work in which he’d been involved. This, as well as the female hormones used to castrate him, is said to have taken a great toll on his mental health.

Turing’s work encompassed more than just his codebreaking, though. He is largely (but not solely) responsible for formalizing concepts like the “algorithm,” and for devising the Turing machine which is considered a model of a general purpose computer.

Turing’s genius did not stop there, either. While working at Manchester University, he became interested in mathematical biology, and went on to write papers on the chemical basis of what’s known as “morphogenesis,” or the processes that causes an animal to develop its shape. Turing made predictions that it would take others more than a decade to prove, but on many counts his predictions were proved right.

Campaigners have sought to have Turing pardoned for a number of years now, with the issue gaining prominence in 2009 and again in 2012. As a result, a private members bill was introduced into parliament to remove Turing’s conviction, but it stalled in the House of Commons. The Royal pardon bypasses parliament, and has been greeted warmly by campaigners as an important tool to right a historical wrong.

“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,” Mr Grayling is quoted as saying.†”Turing deserves to be remembered and recognized 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 Royal Pardon went into effect on Christmas Eve.

However, human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who campaigned alongside fellow humanists like Stephen Fry and Richard Dawkins for Turing’s pardon, has said that the pardon shouldn’t end with Turing.

Tatchell points out that there were at least 50,000 other men who were convicted under the same laws used to prosecute Turing. While the Conservative-led British government passed a bill to scrub historical Gross Indecency convictions for those men who are still alive today, those like Turing who died before the law came into force are still on record as criminals. Tatchell and others of a similar mind argue that they too should have their convictions expunged.

Tatchell has also called for a fresh inquiry into Turing’s death, saying that the investigation undertaken at the time was neither thorough nor conclusive:

“The security services would have been very fearful that Turing was vulnerable to blackmail and anxious that he might pass information to the Soviets, as did the British nuclear scientist Klaus Fuchs, who was convicted in 1950 of assisting the Soviet Unionís atomic programme. There was an irrational, paranoid fear that other leading scientists might also aid the Soviets. Although there is no evidence that Turing was murdered by state agents, the fact that this possibility has never been investigated is a major failing.

“The original inquest into his death was perfunctory and inadequate. Although it is said that he died from eating an apple laced with cyanide, the allegedly fatal apple was never tested for cyanide. A new inquiry is long overdue, even if only to dispel any doubts about the true cause of his death. Turing was regarded as a high security risk because of his homosexuality and his expert knowledge of codebreaking, advanced mathematics and computer science.”

Tatchell does not appear to suggest there was a cover-up, only that Turing’s legacy means a definitive answer must be found as to what caused Turing’s death and the circumstances surrounding it.

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Photo Credit: Mr Ush.

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96 comments

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2:07PM PST on Jan 7, 2014

I forgot to add, that since my theory was made, medical doctors and science has proven me correct. There realy is a sliding scale. And most of you are some were around the middle. And don't protest to much, another sighn of floating down "the river".

2:03PM PST on Jan 7, 2014

So Ashley D., I take it you are a "Gay Reverser" or what ever they call it. Years ago, I looked arond and realised some things. It started out that, as a straight heterosexual, I was cureous as to why someone would would go through all the gref. And why some are so ademently opposed to it. First, I realized that the most homophobic, the ones who were the most threatened, or opposed, were in fact hiding in the closet. At "best" living a life of denial. I also came up with a therory, that people were on a sliding scale. With "GAY" at one end, and "Straight" at the other, and most people were some where in the middle. I have never met a person who thought "They" could change, who wasn't close to the middle part. Nore anyone who ever feared that "The Gays" might, or were trying to convert them or anyone else, that wasn't hiding in that "Closet". Guess what folks, as a "Straight Heterosexual Male", I can state catigoricaly, that NOTHING can make me change, and there for, "The Gays" are in no way a threat to me. They do not threaton my life, marrage, childern, nor any other aspect of my life. So whyshould I worrie about hoe they live their lives, or if they want to get married or raise a family. It does not hurt me, will not hurt you, and most certanly not hurt any children who might be fortunat enough to be raised in a loving and careing home. So, if you are close to that middle, maybe you can chose to "Walk the other way", But nothing will take those thoughts, or

1:02AM PST on Jan 4, 2014

This is such a sad story. It seems as if we humans will never learn tolerance.

2:54AM PST on Jan 2, 2014

The tragedy is also that one does not have to stay LGBT, it is in the conditioning, not the genes.

2:44PM PST on Jan 1, 2014

John B. "An inquest into Mr. Turing death needs to be instigated".

Well said John:

In my opinion, an inquest on the cause of Turing’s death is very important. It may appear to be too late, but I have read so much speculation on his death - was it suicide or an accident? What should be taken into consideration (and thus far does not appear to have been followed up) is that the medication taken to facilitate chemical castration carries the very real risk of a significant rise in the plasma levels of Aβ (sorry for the jargon!) and, clinically, with increased depression and anxiety scores. In addition, the treatment affects cognitive performance, most noticeably of verbal memory.

One can only imagine the effects on a man such as Turing whose life was devoted to research which relied heavily on the very skills the chemicals attacked. All this as a punishment for loving another human being .........

2:22PM PST on Jan 1, 2014

Contd: The facts: In 2009 Gordon Brown (Prime Minister at the time) DID make an official public apology on behalf of the British government for "the appalling way he (Turing) was treated.". What should now follow is a pardon for ALL those (50, 000) who suffered under the same legislation. A pardon may not seem to be enough, but we cannot (unfortunately) reach into the past and change the draconian laws that penalised minorities. If a pardon brings comfort to his descendants that is the opinion that matters the most.

For the sake of accuracy, Prince John had ASD with co-morbid epilepsy. Autism takes many forms and whilst there is a dominant heritable factor in many psychiatric illnesses, paternal age is also a factor as are environmental factors. Does this mean we should demonise all parents of Autistic children? Those who live in the UK cannot claim to be unaware that a constitutional monarch does NOT make the law, that is the remit of Parliament. I am confident that the Queen would have acted sooner, but this was not her decision. In addition, if we are looking for the causes of WW2 look first at the Treaty of Versailles which imposed swingeing penalties on Germany. In attributing blame for any perceived wrong, it is vital to aim at the real target otherwise we risk allowing the true cause to escape condemnation.

2:18PM PST on Jan 1, 2014

Alan Turing was a genius whose major contribution to the defeat of the 3rd reich in WW2 and the development of computers must never be forgotten. I spent 3 years in research (genetic causes of brain malfunction & the effects on cognitive processes and behaviour)) at the University of Manchester where Turing was a professor (before my time unfortunately). His memory and contribution to science is still celebrated by the University. A magnificent memorial to him sits in a quiet garden behind the old buildings of Owen’s College. The memorial plaque reads:

“Alan Mathison Turing
1912-1954
Father of Computer Science
Mathematician. Logician
Wartime Codebreaker
Victim of Prejudice”

An impressive new Maths & Science building bears his name.

What a pity therefore that one contribution to this discussion is sidetracked by a rant against the UK Royal family plus several other misconceptions.

1:51AM PST on Jan 1, 2014

Why did it take decades?

6:03AM PST on Dec 31, 2013

ty

8:15PM PST on Dec 30, 2013

Such a sad story. What good is this doing him now?

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