Alan Turing given posthumous pardon

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Statue of Alan Turing at Bletchley Park.
Image: Antoine Taveneaux.

The UK government announced yesterday the British mathematician and computer pioneer Alan Turing would be posthumously pardoned for his 61-year-old "gross indecency" — homosexual activity — conviction.

At Bletchley Park, Turing had worked on breaking the Enigma code used by the Nazis during World War II. The ability for the British to decode German communication may possibly have shortened the war by two years. In 1952, Turing was convicted of gross indecency after he had a relationship with another man. He was subjected to chemical castration as an alternative to going to prison.

In 1954, Turing died aged 41 from cyanide poisoning. An inquest found he'd committed suicide, but some dispute this and believe it was an accident.

The pardon was granted under the Royal Prerogative of Mercy.

Chris Grayling, the justice secretary, said: "Dr Alan Turing was an exceptional man with a brilliant mind. His brilliance was put into practice at Bletchley Park during the Second World War where he was pivotal to breaking the Enigma code, helping to end the war and save thousands of lives.

"His later life was overshadowed by his conviction for homosexual activity, a sentence we would now consider unjust and discriminatory and which has now been repealed. Dr Turing deserves to be remembered and recognised for his fantastic contribution to the war effort and his legacy to science. A pardon from the Queen is a fitting tribute to an exceptional man."

Prime Minister David Cameron said: "Alan Turing was a remarkable man who played a key role in saving this country in World War Two by cracking the German Enigma code. His action saved countless lives. He also left a remarkable national legacy through his substantial scientific achievements, often being referred to as the father of modern computing."

The pardon follows a formal apology made in 2009 by Prime Minister Gordon Brown, as well as an e-petition campaign that attracted 37,404 signatures.