Friday, September 11, 2009

Apology to Turing rightly done

Thanks to R Weiss for alerting us to this follow-up to our post of 8/20 about the petition drive in the UK asking the government to issue an apology to Alan Turing for the persecution he suffered because he was homosexual. We said on 8/20 that we agreed that Turing deserved an apology, but not any more so than all others who were equally persecuted for their sexuality. We're pleased to see that that's exactly the apology Gordon Brown offered.
Alan Turing was a quite brilliant mathematician, most famous for his work on breaking the German Enigma codes. It is no exaggeration to say that, without his outstanding contribution, the history of the Second World War could well have been very different. He truly was one of those individuals we can point to whose unique contribution helped to turn the tide of war.

The debt of gratitude he is owed makes it all the more horrifying, therefore, that he was treated so inhumanely. In 1952, he was convicted of “gross indecency” – in effect, tried for being gay. His sentence – and he was faced with the miserable choice of this or prison – was chemical castration by a series of injections of female hormones. He took his own life just two years later.

I am pleased to have the chance to say how deeply sorry I and we all are for what happened to him. Alan and the many thousands of other gay men who were convicted as he was convicted, under homophobic laws, were treated terribly.

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