Stephen Hawking, Fellow Scientists Call for Pardon of Gay UK Codebreaker Alan Turing

Professor Stephen Hawking and a long list of scientists have joined the chorus of voices calling for an official pardon of Enigma codebreaker Alan Turing, in a letter to the UK's Telegraph:

TuringWe write in support of a posthumous pardon for Alan Turing, one of the most brilliant mathematicians of the modern era. He lead the team of Enigma codebreakers at Bletchley Park, which most historians agree shortened the Second World War. Yet successive governments seem incapable of forgiving his conviction for the then crime of being a homosexual, which led to his suicide, aged 41.

We urge the Prime Minister formally to forgive this British hero, to whom we owe so much as a nation, and whose pioneering contribution to computer sciences remains relevant even today. To those who seek to block attempts to secure a pardon with the argument that this would set a precedent, we would answer that Turing’s achievements are sui generis. It is time his reputation was unblemished.

Lord Currie of Marylebone
Lord Grade of Yarmouth
Lord Faulkner or Worcester
Lord Rees of Ludlow
Astronomer Royal
Lord Sharkey
Lord Smith of Finsbury
Baroness Trumpington
Sir Timothy Gowers
Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics, Cambridge University
Dr Douglas Gurr
Chairman, Science Museum Group
Professor Stephen Hawking
Sir Paul Nurse
President, the Royal Society

During World War II, Alan Turing, who is known as the father of modern computing, devised the Turing Bombe, a codebreaking device that was used to decipher the Nazi enigma codes, up to 3,000 messages per day. He was also gay, and two years after being convicted of "gross indecency" for being homosexual and sentenced to undergo hormone therapy, he killed himself with a cyanide-laced apple.


  1. ratbastard says

    Scandalous this man hasn’t been pardoned. They claim if I’m right that he was arrested for being with a male hustler, but his real ‘crime’ was being gay. They made him choose jail or hormone treatment. Amazing the sh*t that went on back then. Some gays were given brutal electric shock ‘treatment’ and even lobotomized.

    Turing was a real hero to his country, he provide INVALUABLE service to the war effort against the Nazis. And those in power back then completely turned heir backs on him. Even 60 + years later he can’t get a break.

  2. iban4yesu says

    And on our part, we can help bring the new Turing doc to these US cities’ theaters* on Jan.17th!!:

    After very strong response from enthusiastic crowds, CODEBREAKER opens nationally on January 17th and you have the on-demand power to bring CODEBREAKER to your city by creating an event at a theatre near you.

    * Boston, MA
    Cupertino, CA
    Emeryville, CA –
    Fitchburg, WI
    Livonia, MI
    Orange, CA –
    San Francisco,
    Santa Clara
    Southfield, MI
    Stony Brook, NY
    Vincennes, IN

  3. Matt says

    I strongly support this. But why stop with Turing? Why not pardon all those who were convicted of “gross indecency”? It was an unjust law, and all those who suffered because of it are victims of injustice.

  4. UFFDA says

    I suppose there is value in symbolic acts but all I can think of is the man in pain in his time. That time was wrong and his pain was unnecessary. To me best thing of all would be for Turing’s life to signal the authenticity of all genuine human feeling in order to encourage the full range of our natures. How else can we be reconciled to all the injustice which has gone before? Actually, I find reconciliation impossible. Conciously putting it all out of mind works better.

  5. Caliban says

    I’ve always wondered about the symbolism of the poisoned apple. Adam & Eve- the ‘tree of knowledge’? Sir Isaac Newton? Snow White?

    Just imagine. The course of WWII might have been quite different without Turing, battles lost, more Allied soldiers dying, the war prolonged, but he was “chemically castrated” (with estrogen) because he was gay.

  6. Bill Michael says

    I have read about Alan Turing. He was clearly murdered by the people he saved. He should not only be pardoned, he should be honored as a national hero. What a monstrous wrong was done to him by such an ungrateful nation of hypocrites.

  7. Rrhain says

    “this would set a precedent”

    You’re damned right that it would.

    And it *SHOULD.* Why on earth would any rational person want to keep on the books a conviction based on a supremely unjust law? This isn’t about “respect for the past.” The law itself was disrespectful and we should not have any qualms about tossing it and all that it stood for out of respect for those who suffered under it.

    Not just a pardon but full restitution to Turing and all the other people who were unjustly convicted under the same outrageous law.

    It took the Catholic Church 400 years to figure it out with Galileo. Why do we have to keep learning the same lessons over and over again?

  8. says

    and to add on to all that has been said, not just Turing but the treatment of homosexuals in WWII needs to be taught in schools.

    homosexuals in the camps, once “liberated”, were thrown into prison by the Allied Forces.


  9. John says

    As if the titles meant something coming first: “Lord” this and “Baroness” that. Well, it does in the UK. Seems silly here. And thank goodness for that.

  10. stevielee says

    Yet the very same British Government saw fit to retroactively pardon WW! “Shell Shocked” deserters just recently:

    I guess they must have reasoned that even if one deserted their country – due to extremely stressful conditions – and were then subsequently shot for cowardice, they still do merit a full, retroactive pardon, but if another served his country with the highest distinction and result (as Alan Turing did helping Britain to crack the Nazi enigma code), never once deserting his country – but also enduring extremely stressful and horrific circumstances (forced chemical castration and overwhelming governmental persecution), then that person does not deserve the same consideration due to them having the wrong (non-dominant) sexuality.

  11. Bill says

    Just as an historical note, whether Turing’s death was an accident or suicide is somewhat of an open question – while he died of cyanide poisoning, the apple at his bedside was never tested, leaving a possibility of accidentally ingesting cyanide from a chemical laboratory he had. His family believed the death was accidental.

    A corner decided that Turing committed suicide, but the investigation was not up to current standards. You can find details at (a BBC news article on the topic).

    Whether or not it was a suicide, the treatment he received was abominable.

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