There is no doubt that academically Alan Turing was in the genius class; his achievements speak for themselves. Alas, like many highly intelligent, creative and brilliant individuals, in some ways he wasn't very bright at all.
Paul McCartney may be one of the most prolific songwriters who ever lived, but that didn't stop him walking through Narita International Airport with half a pound of marijuana
in his luggage, likewise Alan Turing could not resist his sexual impulses. It was not though mere homosexuality that caused his downfall.
A year after Turing's conviction, one of England's greatest actors faced the ignominy of appearing before the bench charged with importuning in a public toilet. Sir John Gielgud died 13 years ago at 96, an incredibly advanced age for a homosexual.
There was actually an attempt to cover up Gielgud's conviction, and it might have succeeded. Turing on the other hand could have escaped conviction altogether if he had applied his fine intellect to the problems at hand, which were all entirely of his own making.
If you know little or nothing about Alan Turing, there is a dedicated webpage on the BBC website which includes a number of videos
about him including some background to his role as a war-time code breaker at Bletchley Park
. The Horizon
documentary about specifically the man - but also his work - was uploaded to YouTube
(in 2 parts) two years ago.
There is a dedicated Turing website
, and you will find reports of his clash with the law in various places, but the bottom line is that he began a relationship with a youth some twenty years his junior. His "partner" was unemployed, and Turing appears to have picked him up in the street. Turing's "persecution" by the law is invariably sanitised, but a surprisingly objective report
can be found in the "queer culture" Polari
Yes, it may be humorous that the burglary at Turing's home was investigated by two detectives named Wills and Rimmer, but he didn't have to report the break-in, and he certainly should not have lied to the police, something that is always guaranteed to lose them the sympathy of a victim.
It is clear from this report and from reading between the lines of others that Turing was regarded as a predatory homosexual who was using his status to target unsophisticated men lower down the food chain. Whether or not that was the case, that was how it looked. Rather than facing opprobrium for doing their job, the police are to be commended, especially at a time, now, when they are being accused of turning a blind eye to the corruption of the young on account of the cult of celebrity, as in the far more serious case of Jimmy Savile
, and the unspeakable case of Ian Watkins
. What Turing did was a crime, and in view of the age of the "victim", who was not treated as such, it would still have been a crime after the Wolfenden reforms a decade and a half later, however much today's militant homosexuals and civil libertarians may decry it.
After lying to the police, Turing then made the even bigger mistake of telling them the truth. He didn't have to do either, he could simply have kept his mouth shut or played dumb. He was no spring chicken, and having been cleared for seriously top secret work at the highest level, he must have known that doing what he did with whom he did it would lead at the very least to his loss of security clearance.
Furthermore, none of this was necessary. Although he never "came out" until very late in life, Noël Coward
was known to be homosexual, yet he too worked for the Government during the war. Male homosexuality was not officially tolerated but homosexuals were not harassed provided they remained in the closet.
Finally, Turing did not have to accept the alternative to prison he was offered; he should have gritted his teeth and - no pun intended - taken it like a man.
Obviously his suicide was both tragic and unnecessary, but at least it shows he had a sense of shame, something that can hardly be said of today's militant homosexuals.
All that being said, does Turing deserve his pardon? Obviously it will do him no good, nor will it even impact on his reputation, because those who clamoured for it had already made up their minds about him. Now that he has been pardoned though, how many others are even more worthy?
Why don't we start with the Pendle Witches
? Unlike Turing they were not heroes, they did not help save the nation, rather they were poor, ignorant women who suffered terribly for crimes that existed only in the minds of their persecutors. What about all the other victims of witchcraft and religious persecution down the centuries? Attempts have been made to secure pardons for the unfortunate Pendle Witches, to date without success