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Alan Turing Pardoned By UK Government, Finally

Slate sculpture of Alan Turing by Stephen Kettle Bletchley Park
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."

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rugbuff December 28 2013 at 3:06 PM

GB's treatment of Turing was a national disgrace. Thank heaven they have shown some improvemtent in their attitudes about dealing with homosexuality though it has taken far too long!

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voltaire75 December 26 2013 at 9:53 AM

Big Government = Bad Government
This is what happens when you allow the government to go beyond protecting us from others, protecting us from our selves = Tyranny.

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mercymfa December 26 2013 at 2:34 AM

Feel sorry for this man, to bad that he did not get to repent, and be saved through Jesus Christ.
Nothing matters any more, what's the point of all these. He is dead.

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nunnie30 December 26 2013 at 1:27 AM

I have never heard of Turning until now.. His life should have been celebrated. How backward the world was at that time. There are many that still have that 50's mindset toward gays.

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trusgold December 26 2013 at 6:36 AM

yes pray the gay away is an example.

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HELLO SHELDON December 25 2013 at 8:45 PM


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1 reply to HELLO SHELDON's comment
trusgold December 26 2013 at 6:39 AM

this guy deserves a Nobel Peace Prize!

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jack December 25 2013 at 5:27 PM

About time for that pardon.The British had a weird mindset about gays.I say FFFFFFFFFFFFF to the British.

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limberdik69 December 25 2013 at 5:11 PM

wrong to pardon this wat ever it was.

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jrgordon47 December 25 2013 at 5:01 PM

Well...I'd hope that he was still alive...He'd forgive them!

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hardworkingman_jeff December 25 2013 at 4:49 PM

Who care if he was gay. What really matters is what he accomplished as a person fighting a war. If there was a sailor who was swapping decks on a ship, would he get the same notoriety? Does this article say anything about who a was with? NO. That is an insult to the person who was with him isn't it. The writer needs to be fired.

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Terry Stevens December 25 2013 at 5:31 PM

Swapping? or Swabbing?
The writer is just fine. Let it be.
T Dawg

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Artlancer December 25 2013 at 4:48 PM

the u.k. pardoned tourings ? what gall.....anything short of a very public apology is unsuitable, but lets just think for a minute now , whos on her knees again ? oh yea the ever dwindling british empire.

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2 replies to Artlancer's comment
jrgordon47 December 25 2013 at 5:03 PM

O...was it charlie's mum?

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now and then December 25 2013 at 6:03 PM

The PM Brown made a public apology in 2009 already.

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