British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has issued a posthumous apology over the treatment of gay scientist and mathematician Alan Turing, a man who helped the British Government unlock the secret of the Enigma Code and therefore contributed to the WWII Allied victory, calling the government’s treatment of the scientist “awful” and “utterly unfair”.
Rather than being treated like a war hero, Turing was convicted for being a homosexual and was given female hormone injections as a cure. He committed suicide just two years after at the age of 41. As well as his work during the war-effort, Turing is widely considered to be the father of modern day computer science, no doubt giving impetus to the international appeal for a formal apology.
A paragraph of Gordon Brown’s apology acknowledges Turing as a man of great recognition, yes, but also goes some way to including all those that, like him, were so horribly persecuted because of their sexuality:
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 past 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.
To read the rest of Gordon Brown’s statement, please click here.
The creator of the first UK based Alan Turing petition, John Graham-Cumming, computer programmer and author of The Geek Atlas, has reacted warmly to Gordon Brown’s statement, but recognized that this was not the final point of discussion:
“For me, it’s the end of my campaign. But for others it is not. It’s vital that Bletchley Park and the National Museum of Computing secure funding to keep them alive.”
This is in reference to the fact that the historical building in which Alan Turing and other code-breakers worked during the war has been repeatedly denied funding under Britain’s Labour Government, first by former PM Tony Blair, and now by Gordon Brown’s administration too.
To find out about the campaign to save Bletchley Park Museum please click here.
Lastly, an apology is a good first step, but Alan Turing and the hundred-thousand like him who were convicted of gross indecency because of their homosexuality are still classed by government records as criminals. All of them need to be officially pardoned.
Do you agree?