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article imageStephen Hawking leads pardon petition for code hero, Alan Turing

By Nancy Houser     Dec 15, 2012 in Science
AlanTuring was one of the most brilliant mathematicians of the modern era, helping win WWII through his codes. However, he would later be prosecuted and tortured for his homosexuality by Britain. He committed suicide at age 41.
Turing, often described as the "father of modern computing," worked to crack the German Enigma code at Bletchley Park which won WWII for the British, making him a code-breaking legend. But once he was accused of being homosexual, he was stripped of all awards and honors. To stay out of prison, he was forced to receive female hormone injections in order to reduce his male sexual urges for other men, as being gay during those days was considered a crime.
On June 7, 1954, at his home in Wilmslow, Cheshire, he committed suicide by taking cyanide. According to The Star, "In 2009, then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown made a public apology on behalf of the government for Turing’s 'inhumane' treatment, saying: “We’re sorry, you deserved so much better.”
Eleven renowned scientists, led by Dr. Stephen Hawking, have requested that the British government pardon Alan Turing by petitioning Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron to "formally forgive Alan Turing." Additional signatures include Astronomer Royal Martin Rees and the President of the Royal society, Paul Nurse. The letter said, "It is time his reputation was unblemished."
Alan Turing did not fit easily with any of the intellectual movements of his time, aesthetic, technocratic or marxist. In the 1950s, commentators struggled to find discreet words to categorise him: as ‘a scientific Shelley,’ as possessing great ‘moral integrity’. But until the 1970s the reality of his life was unmentionable. He is still hard to place within twentieth-century thought. He exalted the science that existentialists held had robbed life of meaning. The most original figure, the most insistent on personal freedom, he held originality and will to be susceptible to mechanisation. In the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, the mind of Alan Turing is said to remain an enigma.
According to Stanford, "In 1951 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society for his 1936 achievement, yet at the same time he was striking into entirely new territory with a mathematical theory of biological morphogenesis." All of this was interrupted by Alan Turing's arrest in February of 1952 for his sexual affair with a young Manchester man. In order to escape imprisonment, he was forced to undergo the injection of oestrogen intended to negate his sexual drive. He was disqualified from continuing secret cryptological work.
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