UK Codebreaker Alan Turing Receives Royal Pardon

Nearly six decades after he took his own life following a conviction of "gross indecency" for being a homosexual, the famed World War II codebreaker Alan Turing has finally been granted a royal pardon by the UK government. The Guardian reports:

Alan TuringTuring was considered to be the father of modern computer science and was most famous for his work in helping to create the "bombe" that cracked messages enciphered with the German Enigma machines. He was convicted of gross indecency in 1952 after admitting a sexual relationship with a man.

He was given experimental chemical castration as a "treatment". His criminal record resulted in the loss of his security clearance and meant he was no longer able to work for Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), where he had been employed following service at Bletchley Park during the war. He died of cyanide poisoning in 1954, aged 41.

Announcing the pardon, [justice secretary Chris] Grayling 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conviction for homosexual activity, a sentence we would now consider unjust and discriminatory and which has now been repealed.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."

Comments

  1. UFFDA says

    “A pardon from the Queen” means nothing. She should abdicate in shame and see that the monarchy is dissolved, Buckham Palace shoudl be burned and the dome of St. Pauls should be caved in.

  2. JackFknTwist says

    About bloody time !
    This is an egregious example, as if we needed any more, of the centuries of bigotry towards gays. ” Chemical castration” for being gay, in the fifties !!!!!… and to one of Britain’s greatest intelligence officers.
    It demonstrates the virulent rabid malice of the anti-gays, whether Phuck Dynasty, Frothy, Perkins, Brown, Lively et al.
    They all have the same visceral response to gay sex……..
    But Turing’s life was ruined, and when he should have been given accolades, he was given a gun, metaphorically, and told do the honourable thing.
    I write this post because I believe that the malice against gays in the fifties still exists …..and will poke it Duck head up when it can.

  3. q says

    @UFFDA:

    For nearly half a century this Queen has worked incredibly hard to break down barriers across racial, social and now sexual-oriented Barriers that no Royal has ever even attempted. Queen E. rocks!

    But you? Not so much. You poor pathetic lil’ creature. No one to luv your pus-filled corpus during the Horrordays? AWWWwwwwwwwww!

    moronicrepublicanbiotchtrollsayswhat?

  4. UFFDA says

    She’s a good queen no doubt, but “worked incredibly hard”…she has humane opinions, that’s it, everyone else does the work of propagating them. Besides, what I said was certainly tongue in cheek, but as a monarchist you couldn’t tell.

  5. simon says

    In queen’s English:
    “Now know ye that we, in consideration of circumstances humbly represented to us, are graciously pleased to grant our grace and mercy unto the said Alan Mathison Turing and grant him our free pardon posthumously in respect of the said convictions.”

  6. Mike Ryan says

    We’ll … That brought tears of happiness. As others have said, it was long overdue. Now for a holiday designated in his name so all British citizens never forget this incredible man is certainly called for.

  7. Alex Parrish says

    This is well and good and quite overdue, but to my way of thinking Turing deserves an apology not a pardon, . It is England and the queen who ought to be asking for pardon.

  8. Mike says

    Is there ANYTHING more ANNOYING and conceited then the hackneyed expression of ” Just sayin'” ?

    With the possible exception of REALLY saying “I am smart, look at me!” You are not really saying ANYTHING at all, except that you are simply no longer going to defend a claim that you made before. On the other hand Alan Turing was a genius with real staying power . . .

  9. NY2.0 says

    It’s 2013, why did it take so long. I mean wouldn’t the relevant authorities have grown a conscience about the way this guy was persecuted at least 10 years ago?

    I guess as the saying goes, better late than never.

  10. UFFDA says

    Hey Mike…”just sayin'” IS annoying for sure. That’s why people use it. It’s fake humility and I learned it on this site. I will desist as some of us don’t need any more ways to aggravate people.

  11. anon says

    No, the British royals are quite conservative. The former labor govt. under Gordon Brown couldn’t get the establishment to pardon Turing and had to give up. That was about six years ago. What’s probably happened is the Prince Charles has taken over a lot of “duties” from his mother, since a recent series of news reports have shown that Charles and the Queen send letters of negotiation back and forth to the PM over bills pending and other matters. They are more active than previously thought. In this case, I suspect Charles was willing to pardon Turing and the Queen relented, probably because he said he’d do it once King anyway.

  12. Chris says

    The monarch doesn’t actually have any input into this decision. It isn’t her choice who to pardon and who not to. It’s an entirely political decision taken by the Prime Minister and the government.

    The Queen just rubber stamps decisions like this.

  13. Randy says

    Too little, and far far too late.

    While we’re talking about the entitled people, I want Chuck to be King. He’s the man that monarchists deserve on their money. He represents them accurately, though not well.

  14. simon says

    Chris:
    In defense of certain more enlightened conservatives. People here asked why it took so long. That’s is because society changes only slowly. The issue came up previously under the Labor government. They couldn’t get it done. It is kind of ironic. It was the conservative PM Cameron who pushed the same-sex marriage through parliament. It is also the conservative government who got Turing pardoned.

  15. Bill says

    Other articles claimed that a queen’s pardon is normally given in cases in which someone was wrongly convicted, and Turing wasn’t – the law was a disgrace but he did break it. So, for Turing to get one, even posthumously, is an unusual event and probably reflects his contributions in saving England.

    BTW, if anyone saw the article in The Advocate, they got it a bit scramble when they wrote, “Turing was a mathematician whose code-breaking algorithms helped pave the way for the modern computer.” In fact, Turing’s work on the theory of computation contributed to the development of computers. Turing’s work on cryptography did not – it was kept classified until well after computers were being used, so the people developing computers had no way of knowing about it.

    Turing developed a model of a computer called a Turing machine and provided that actual computers could not compute anything that this simple, abstract machine could.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E3keLeMwfHY shows a video of a working model of a Turing machine.

  16. simon says

    Bill and Lexus:
    This was exactly the reason the former government refused to grant pardon to Turing.
    And of course to Oscar Wilde and others.
    But pardon seems to have a broader scope. e.g. the US presidents have the executive power to grant pardons to people convicted in court. No retrial is required.
    In a way, it is just a formality for the Queen to issue a statement to a person who is already dead. It has zero practical effect.

  17. simon says

    That said, I think it is still a consolation to those who were convicted and still alive. They are probably very old now.
    The government is worried that it will open a Pandora box and will lead to demands to pardoning people convicted of other crimes under laws which are now obsolete.

  18. Bill says

    @Simon – they could avoid the Pandora’s box problem by restricting that type of pardon to cases in which the law was obviously an unjust law for which compliance would be difficult. If you made sex before the age of 30 illegal, most of the population would be incarcerated, at least if caught. Here’s a good example (a mug shot of the singer Frank Sinatra for “carrying on” with a married woman while he was still living in New Jersey): http://www.thesmokinggun.com/mugshots/celebrity/music/frank-sinatra and for more details, check out http://crime.about.com/od/famousdiduno/ig/celebrity_mugshots/sinatrafrank.htm !

    BTW, there was a typo in my previous comment: somehow “proved” got turned into “provided”. Sometimes I “autocomplete” when typing and make mistakes that I would not make when writing with a pen.

  19. Randy says

    UK Home Office, to Gay Star News: “The Government has taken concrete action to allow those affected by this to apply for their convictions to be disregarded and would encourage anyone affected to apply to have these records deleted or disregarded and guarantee that all applications will be considered carefully.”

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