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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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Ed Tarrant December 25 2013 at 11:59 AM

Hooray! to late tho~

Flag Reply +1 rate up
lsheaffer December 25 2013 at 11:40 AM

The British government sholud also issue an apology for its trial an imprisonment of Oscar Wilde.

Flag Reply +7 rate up
jteasdale December 25 2013 at 10:27 AM

Imagine what additional things he might have done, what he might have created, or what he might have contributed to society had he not been hounded to the point that he committed suicide. And yet, here we are decades later and there are still those who would judge this man negatively.

Flag Reply +6 rate up
ga7smi December 25 2013 at 1:18 PM

about time - long overdue

Flag Reply +2 rate up
Keith December 25 2013 at 10:16 AM

What A poor excuse of a species we are. Weak and intollerable to our basic "human" nature. Who dosent need the comfort of another unerstanding, loyal, and caring human being.As a son of a parent from the "Greatest Generation of al time" words have not been made to extend our eternal gratitude to all who lost their innocense at such an early age over 70 years ago For all wo served & for all who serve."Job Well done"!!

Flag Reply +2 rate up
Edmund December 25 2013 at 10:06 AM

as one to be in the first class to graduate frm the then new kw-26, NSA school in june of 1960 and having the trainig of the work of Turing and the then new designs and ways of the compters which were top notch. I had lots of respect and amazement for those of Bletchley Park. I always thought he did so much and was destroyed by the same which he devoted his life and talents for. Its good to see some final respect for the man. Ed Biggs
AFSC 30650C
edmndbggs@aol.com

Flag Reply +4 rate up
kenizzi December 25 2013 at 1:20 PM

It is sad the was society treats other human beings. Who cares who you sleep with. It is none of my business and none of yours. If your a good person you should be treated as such. This man helped save many lives and helped us win the war and deserved better than he got.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
1 reply
hyitsme242 kenizzi December 25 2013 at 2:36 PM

Thats right "'kenizzi" , Its a sin what was done to this computer giant. He should have been rewarded for his contribution to help all of us. His sexual choice is his business, and is between him and God.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
arpeggio1967 December 25 2013 at 9:43 AM

Kind of funny though, he has to be dead for 50 plus years to be pardoned. Pardoned? From what? The damage was done to this man, you cant take it back! the pardon helps people feel better today. It didnt do a thing for him and his family.

Flag Reply +7 rate up
dbobmcch December 25 2013 at 9:37 AM

Why they took so long to do the right thing?

Flag Reply +2 rate up
Gerrie December 25 2013 at 9:17 AM

this man could have saved my dad's life or my uncle's lives because they all served during world war two. this man is a hero....

Flag Reply +6 rate up
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