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World War II Codebreaker Alan Turing May Finally Get His Pardon

World War II Codebreaker Alan Turing May Finally Get His Pardon

Last week, the British government indicated that it’s finally prepared to support a bill that would grant Alan Turing, the man famously responsible for breaking the Nazi Enigma code, a posthumous pardon.

Despite Alan Turing’s obvious contributions to the world — the brilliant mathematician and computer scientist is considered to be a World War II hero and the father of artificial intelligence — he was one of 49,000 gay men who were convicted under the 1885 Criminal Law Amendment Act, according to The Guardian. The law criminalized, among other things, male homosexuality. Turing was convicted of gross indecency in 1952 and sentenced to chemical castration. In 1954, he committed suicide.

In 2009, then prime minister Gordon Brown issued an unequivocal apology for Turing’s treatment on behalf of the British government. But, despite the obvious injustice of Turing’s conviction, the British government in recent years has resisted calls for a pardon.

That is, until now.

According to The Guardian, a liberal democrat Lord Sharkey has been campaigning for Turing’s pardon after he was taught math in the 1960s by Turing’s only doctoral student.

During debate on the measure, Lady Trumpington gave Turing credit for saving the people of Great Britain during World War II. She said, “I am certain that but for his work we would have lost the war through starvation.”

That’s high praise, indeed.

Finally, after more than 60 years, Alan Turing will get the pardon he so richly deserves. Barring any amendments, action on the bill will come in late October, and it is expected to quickly pass the House of Commons.

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Photo Credit: John Callas via Wikimedia Commons

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101 comments

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6:20PM PDT on Jul 31, 2013

About time.

We used to just had to put up with nosy neighbors. We also seem to have nosy people in our bedrooms. Along with every other room on our homes. They seem to need to see every thing we do, and make comments on it all. "oh! look !!! he/she scratched their bottom wrong....report...report !!!!

I sure hope that the rest of the world wakes up and sees the rude action and helps stop it all. This is beyond sick to me.

12:59PM PDT on Jul 31, 2013

I understand the British government is trying to make amends and I commend them for that. The problem is that if they hadn't had that ridiculous law in the first place there would be no need to make amends.

Love is love. Get it together people!!!

4:22AM PDT on Jul 31, 2013

This is a shameful moment for the UK. Turing saved the UK, and helped end the war quicker. This is the government of the UK's way of trying to wash his blood off their hands 60 years later.

2:43AM PDT on Jul 31, 2013

Despicable that any man should have been treated in this way , a brilliant life wasted, and those insignificant wimps in Parliament have spent 60 years discussing whether or not to pardon him?

10:01PM PDT on Jul 29, 2013

Is this a pardon for Turing, or is it Britain asking his pardon?

Personally, although the law was on the books since 1885, I do not think Turing did anything wrong. His conviction should be completely expunged, as if it never happened. That he is responsible for breaking the Nazi's enigma code during WWII should have no bearing. In other words, clear his name because it is the right thing to do, and not solely because of his invaluable contribution to Britain.

And tell his story in the history books so that hopefully future generations will not make the same mistakes.

8:27PM PDT on Jul 29, 2013

Thanks

10:25AM PDT on Jul 29, 2013

Oops, meant to say he should receive a pardon, not just an apology. But an apology as well wouldn't go amiss.

10:23AM PDT on Jul 29, 2013

Have heard much about Alan Touring and his contribution to our freedom, but had never heard that he was gay, let alone convicted and castrated for it, which come as a shock.

Of course he should receive an apology, as should everyone else who was convicted under these unjust and unequal laws. Bear in mind that lesbianism was never made illegal in UK for the simple reason that no-one (at least no politician) was able, or dared, to explain to Queen Victoria just what it was that women did together. Perhaps they feared she "would not be amused".

I just wish there was some way of removing these convictions completely. A pardon, though welcome, just doesn't seem enough to right the wrongs these people suffered.

5:00AM PDT on Jul 29, 2013

Wow, already?

9:04PM PDT on Jul 28, 2013

How sad that a person who contributed so much to the world was harassed into suicide. I guess a "pardon" is better than nothing....

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