Britain’s posthomous pardon for Alan Turing over gay sex conviction a message to India

Published: December 24, 2013
BRITAIN

FILE: British mathematician Alan Turing at the school in Dorset.HERBORNE SCHOOL/AFP/Getty Images

RAPHAEL SATTER
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

LONDON — Britain has tried to make good by one of its most famous sons, posthumously pardoning Alan Turing for a gay sex conviction which tarnished the brilliant career of the code breaker credited with helping win the war against Nazi Germany and laying the foundation for the computer age.

One author said he hoped Tuesday’s symbolic act — the famous mathematician committed suicide more than 50 years ago — would send a message to countries such as India and Russia, where gays can still be prosecuted for expressing their sexuality.

Others say the pardon doesn’t go far enough, noting that thousands of others shared in Turing’s humiliation in the years during which Britain criminalized homosexual behaviour.

For lawmaker Iain Stewart, one of many who campaigned for the pardon, the act helped right a massive wrong.

“He helped preserve our liberty,” Stewart told The Associated Press. “We owed it to him in recognition of what he did for the country — and indeed the free world — that his name should be cleared.”

Turing’s contributions to science spanned from computer science to biology, but he’s perhaps best remembered as the architect of the effort to crack the Enigma code, the cipher used by Nazi Germany to secure its military communications. Turing’s groundbreaking work — combined with the effort of cryptanalysts at Bletchley Park near Oxford and the capture of several Nazi code books — gave the Allies the edge across half the globe, helping them defeat the Italians in the Mediterranean, beat back the Germans in Africa and escape enemy submarines in the Atlantic.

“It could be argued and it has been argued that he shortened the war, and that possibly without him the Allies might not have won the war,” said David Leavitt, the author of a book on Turing’s life and work. “That’s highly speculative, but I don’t think his contribution can be underestimated. It was immense.”

Turing also pioneered the field of computer science, theorizing the existence of a “universal machine” that could be programmed to carry out different task years before the creation of the world’s fully functional electronic computer. Turing ideas matured into a fascination with artificial intelligence and the notion that machines would someday challenge the minds of man. When the war ended, Turing went to work programing the world’s early computers, drawing up — among other things — one of the first computer chess games.

Those accomplishments didn’t save him from arrest and prosecution for the offence of “gross indecency” stemming from his relationship with another man in 1952. Turing was stripped of his security clearance, subjected to monitoring by British authorities, and forced to take estrogen to neutralize his sex drive — a process described by some as chemical castration.

An angry and depressed Turing committed suicide in 1954. S. Barry Cooper, a University of Leeds mathematician who has written about Turing’s work, said future generations would struggle to understand the code breaker’s treatment.

“You take one of your greatest scientists, and you invade his body with hormones,” he said in a telephone interview. “It was a national failure.”

Tuesday’s pardon, which caps years of campaigning by gay rights activists, lawmakers, scientists, and others, was officially granted by Queen Elizabeth II, although in practice such pardons are an executive decision taken by the government.

Leavitt, the author, emphasized the symbolic importance of the pardon in the context of anti-gay laws passed in Russia and reaffirmed in India. British human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said Turing’s pardon highlighted the need for more action closer to home, saying that tens of thousands of Britons were convicted under the same anti-gay legislation yet aren’t in line for the pardon given to Turing.

“Everyone should be equal under the law,” he said. “It’s wrong to give famous privileged pardons.”

08:51ET 24-12-13

[+]

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,



Readers Comments (0)

Comments are closed.

Featured

Longtime Surrey politician and former mayor Bob Bose is pictured here near his south Surrey home on Monday, November 21, 2011. Jenelle Schneider/PNG

Former Surrey mayor Bob Bose backs Barinder Rasode, says no Surrey Matters slate coming

AMY REID SURREY NOW SURREY — Though Coun. Barinder Rasode has yet to officially announce her intentions to run for the city’s top job, she’s…
Continue Reading »

A Pakistani-Canadian blogger has released Pakistan's first-ever anti-homophobia children's book. Submitted photo/Nicemangos.blogspot.ca.

Toronto-based blogger releases Pakistan’s first anti-homophobia children’s book

VANCOUVER DESI A Toronto-based Pakistani blogger has written and released Pakistan’s first-ever anti-homophobia children’s book. Blogger Eiynah, known for her site Nice Mangos where she…
Continue Reading »

paintball

Photos: In country long awash with weapons of war, paintball takes hold in Afghanistan with splat

REBECCA SANTANA THE ASSOCIATED PRESS KABUL, Afghanistan — The hidden gunman, dressed in long green coveralls and a SWAT-team-style vest and helmet, looks ominous as…
Continue Reading »

LOCAL NEWS

Longtime Surrey politician and former mayor Bob Bose is pictured here near his south Surrey home on Monday, November 21, 2011. Jenelle Schneider/PNG

Former Surrey mayor Bob Bose backs Barinder Rasode, says no Surrey Matters slate coming

AMY REID SURREY NOW SURREY — Though Coun. Barinder Rasode has yet to officially announce her intentions to run for the city’s top job, she’s…
Continue Reading »

A Pakistani-Canadian blogger has released Pakistan's first-ever anti-homophobia children's book. Submitted photo/Nicemangos.blogspot.ca.

Toronto-based blogger releases Pakistan’s first anti-homophobia children’s book

VANCOUVER DESI A Toronto-based Pakistani blogger has written and released Pakistan’s first-ever anti-homophobia children’s book. Blogger Eiynah, known for her site Nice Mangos where she…
Continue Reading »

A tour bus has crashed on the Coquihalla Highway near Merritt. There are many injuries and at least six passengers are in critical condition.Adam Hopewell /Courtesy Global B.C.

RCMP say speed not a factor in Coquihalla tour bus crash that injured nearly 60

STEPHANIE IP VANCOUVER DESI Mounties say a dashboard camera from a tractor-trailer captured a tour bus rollover that injured all 56 passengers in a tour…
Continue Reading »

Don't Miss...

Rice Bucket India poverty

India’s Rice Bucket Challenge gives a ‘meaningful twist’ to ALS ice bucket challenge

VANCOUVER DESI India has created its own “desi” version of the ALS ice bucket challenge that has swept the globe. While the original icy cold…
Continue Reading »

India

Man proudly wears world’s largest turban weighing in at 100 pounds and 645 metres long unwrapped

VANCOUVER DESI A 60-year-old devout Sikh in northern India appears to be the proud owner of the world’s largest turban – weighing in at 100…
Continue Reading »

Elephant headed god

Gallery: India prepares to welcome elephant-headed Lord Ganesha

VANCOUVER DESI Preparations for Ganesh Chaturthi, a festival marking the birth of the elephant-headed god, have taken off in India as Hindus prepare to welcome…
Continue Reading »

Witches Burned Victim Alive In Front Of Family

Witches burn Indian dad alive in a bizarre ritual in front of his wife and 10-year-old son

CEN AGENCY Witches who burned a man alive after chopping off his arms in a bizarre ritual have been seized by police in central India….
Continue Reading »

India-Khatav-Akola,Maharashtra

Baby born with two faces in India fighting for life (Warning: Graphic content)

VANCOUVER DESI A baby born with two faces and four eyes is fighting for her life at a hospital in western India, according to Ruptly….
Continue Reading »


Bollywood Latest

Newly-elected Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Member of Parliament and Indian Bollywood actor Paresh Rawal arrives in Parliament in New Delhi on May 20, 2014. India's Narendra Modi is expected to formally declare his intention to form the next government May 20, days after his Hindu nationalist party won the first parliamentary majority in three decades. PRAKASH SINGH/AFP/Getty Images

No one else can play the role: Paresh Rawal on Modi biopic

IANS Mumbai  – Versatile actor Paresh Rawal, who will soon start shooting for a biopic on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, says he is the right…
Continue Reading »

hot photos desi actress bollywood sex

Gallery: Deepika Padukone photo shoot

VANCOUVER DESI Bollywood beauty Deepika Padukone, who is creating a lot of buzz with her upcoming film Finding Fanny, poses for the camera. Related Stories:…
Continue Reading »

Bollywood desi boobs sex

Bollywood’s bold babe Sherlyn Chopra strips for Playboy

VANCOUVER DESI Bollywood actress Sherlyn Chopra marks the first-ever Indian model to pose for Playboy magazine, according to eonline.com. While the 30-year-old announced she’d be…
Continue Reading »