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LONDON (AP) - His code breaking prowess helped the Allies outfox the Nazis, his theories laid the foundation for the computer age, and his work on artificial intelligence still informs the debate over whether machines can think.
But Alan Turing was gay, and 1950s Britain punished the mathematician's sexuality with a criminal conviction, intrusive surveillance and hormone treatment meant to extinguish his sex drive.
Now, nearly half a century after the war hero's suicide, Queen Elizabeth II has finally granted Turing a pardon.
"Turing was an exceptional man with a brilliant mind," Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said in a prepared statement released Tuesday. Describing Turing's treatment as unjust, Grayling said the code breaker "deserves to be remembered and recognized for his fantastic contribution to the war effort and his legacy to science."
The pardon has been a long time coming.
Turing's contributions to science spanned several disciplines, but he's perhaps best remembered as the architect of the effort to crack the Enigma code, the cypher used by Nazi Germany to secure its military communications. Turing's groundbreaking work - combined with the effort of cryptanalysts at Bletchley Park near Oxford and the capture of several Nazi code books - gave the Allies the edge across half the globe, helping them defeat the Italians in the Mediterranean, beat back the Germans in Africa and escape enemy submarines in the Atlantic.
"It could be argued and it has been argued that he shortened the war, and that possibly without him the Allies might not have won the war," said David Leavitt, the author of a book on Turing's life and work. "That's highly speculative, but I don't think his contribution can be underestimated. It was immense."
Even before the war, Turing was formulating ideas that would underpin modern computing, ideas which matured into a fascination with artificial intelligence and the notion that machines would someday challenge the minds of man. When the war ended, Turing went to work programing some of the world's first computers, drawing up - among other things - one of the earliest chess games.
Turing made no secret of his sexuality, and being gay could easily lead to prosecution in post-war Britain. In 1952, Turing was convicted of "gross indecency" over his relationship with another man, and he was stripped of his security clearance, subjected to monitoring by British authorities, and forced to take estrogen to neutralize his sex drive - a process described by some as chemical castration.
S. Barry Cooper, a University of Leeds mathematician who has written about Turing's work, said future generations would struggle to understand the code breaker's treatment.
"You take one of your greatest scientists, and you invade his body with hormones," he said in a telephone interview. "It was a national failure."
Depressed and angry, Turing committed suicide in 1954.
Turing's legacy was long obscured by secrecy - "Even his mother wasn't allowed to know what he'd done," Cooper said. But as his contribution to the war effort was gradually declassified, and personal computers began to deliver on Turing's promise of "universal machines," the injustice of his conviction became ever more glaring. Then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown issued an apology for Turing's treatment in 2009, but campaigners kept pressing for a formal pardon.
One of them, British lawmaker Iain Stewart, told The Associated Press he was delighted with the news that one had finally been granted.
"He helped preserve our liberty," Steward said in a telephone interview. "We owed it to him in recognition of what he did for the country - and indeed the free world - that his name should be cleared."
how could you not agree with this??sould have been way sooner without the other ridiulcous punishment
A. Glad this happened, kinda backward it took this long. B. I want the correct usage of Queer back, Queer doesn't mean gay, never has. It actually just means strange. Its be perverted like the word Gay to mean several other things it doesn't. People tend to forget that gay actually meant happy for the majority of a while. A lot of the words we use today, are actually being used in-correctly.
I have been saying this same thing for some time. I have made some people mad by using the Queer name.Well, that is just to bad.......let them live with it.
The man commits suicide and you say "sorry"
Without the ability of the allies to basically read Hitler's mail before he did, the war may have ended differently. Turing made it possible for us to break Axis codes on a large scale. He deserved our thanks and certainly not his punishment.
One point to remember always when these discussions come up: Homosexual persons are the offspring of heterosexual persons. If punishment is doled out then go attack the heteros.People guilty of oppression always are intimidated by the actions of the oppressed to get equal treatment. The expression, "they want to take over" is often found in the writings of those in the oppressing groups. Humans are clannish and always tend to identify with like appearing people. Skin color is one obvious way. Other ways we identify are by language, then social behavior, and finally sexuality.Alan Turing was attacked because he was not like the majority and they concocted ways to rationalize their actions based in their fears.One day we may finally realize that Christ walked this earth assimilating those that were different. This is HIS legacy. Happy Birthday JESUS CHRIST.
Thanks for such a moving letter--shame it took so many years.MERRY XMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR
agree with you
Every country has gone through it's evolution. Good of them to finally say so.
Man's inhumanity to man, is well documented. What a horrible way to live. Taking your life, because you are not accepted and left alone. Sigh... Nothing about this surprises me. It does however, remind me of time's gone by. Things were just scary...
Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company, issued checks to an AGENT that had his license revoked in JEFFERSON CITY,MO, for stealing from his clients. Is this the way they treat their policy holdres?Albert Kandel564 Sarah Lane, Apt 305Creve Couer,MO. 63141
The British government sholud also issue an apology for its trial an imprisonment of Oscar Wilde.
Hooray! to late tho~