Alan Turing: Queen Pardons Codebreaker Convicted of Homosexuality in 1952

Tuesday, 24 Dec 2013 02:21 PM

By Robin Farmer

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Queen Elizabeth pardoned mathematician and computer pioneer Alan Turin, who saved many lives by cracking Nazi Germany’s “unbreakable code” but took his own in 1954 after a criminal conviction for homosexuality.

Turin, whose electromechanical machine broke the “Enigma” code German U-boats used, was credited with helping the Allies win World War II.

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Effective Tuesday, this was the fourth royal pardon granted since the end of World War II, a spokeswoman for Justice Minister Chris Grayling told Reuters.

Turing was an “exceptional man with a brilliant mind,” Grayling said in a statement.

"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," he continued.

Turing lost his job and was chemically castrated after being convicted of gross indecency in 1952 for homosexual sex, which was was illegal in Britain until 1967.

He killed himself with cyanide two years later at the age of 41. However, some friends and students of his life say his death was accidental, the BBC reported.

"The persecution of this great British scientist over his sexuality was tragic and I'm delighted that we can now focus solely on celebrating his legacy," scientist Paul Nurse, president of the Royal Society, told Reuters.

Supporters have long rallied for greater recognition of Turing and his accomplishments.
CNN reported in 2009 about that an online petition with 30,000 signatures succeeded in getting an apology for Turing’s treatment by the justice system from then Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Brown called the Turing sentence "appalling."

Glyn Hughes, the sculptor of the Alan Turing Memorial in Manchester, told the BBC he was gratified by the pardon.

"When we set out to try and make him famous — get him recognized — it was really difficult to collect money," he said.

"None of the big computer companies would stump up a penny for a memorial. They perhaps would now — we've come a very long way.

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