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Blog

Thousands demand apology for Turing tragedy

turing1.jpg
The father of computer science

By James Dacey

His pioneering work in the 1940s is arguably the reason you are reading from this screen.

His code-breaking skills also helped to defeat the fascist onslaught during the Second World War.

His eponymous test to gauge the “intelligence” of a machine is taken as an essential concept in the field of artificial intelligence.

But rather than enjoy the fruits of his work in the latter half of the 20th century, Alan Turing tragically died in 1954 aged just 41, after biting into an apple laced with cyanide. Though there is still some controversy surrounding his death, the general consensus is that Turing killed himself after being given the choice of prison or chemical castration on account of his homosexuality.

Now, over fifty years later, a computer scientist is calling for the British government to finally apologize for the manner in which Turing was treated.

John Graham-Cumming has created an on-line petition, which includes the statement:

The British Government should apologize to Alan Turing for his treatment and recognize that his work created much of the world we live in and saved us from Nazi Germany. And an apology would recognize the tragic consequences of prejudice that ended this man’s life and career

At the time of writing, more than 26 000 people have added their name to the petition.

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4 comments

  1. Another great tragedy in our so-called “civilization” caused by stupidity and bigotry. Will Homo sapiens ever become civilized?

  2. Thomas Goodey

    I disagree with this foolish petition. Are we to petition for Oscar Wilde to be pardoned as well? Like Wilde, Turing was convicted fairly according to the laws of his time. Moreover, the account given in the article is not accurate – see Wikipedia. Actually Turing accepted the chemical de-sexing treatment, which lasted a year. He lost his security clearance and his ability to travel to the USA, but still was able to travel to European countries, and he continued his career in mathematics teaching. Subsequently he (apparently) committed suicide – two years after his arrest.

  3. How ridiculous! He was treated by the very government he helped save much in the same way as the Nazis would have treated him because of his sexual orientation.

  4. It is quite annoying that a person of this class had his death in this manner. The thought that he had in his mind is cherished and enjoyed by many but he was not fortunate enough to have this. Thank you for creating such a blog with some useful information.

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