Alan Turing has just received a Royal Pardon – better late than never, I suppose, though I’ve never really understood the point of posthumous pardons. So, in the absence of a proper blog post (it’s Christmas, sorry), here’s the post I wrote about him 18 months ago.
2012 has been announced as the Alan Turing Year. Next Saturday, 23 June, marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Alan Mathieson Turing. There have already been various events to mark the anniversary – on radio and television, and there will be a conference on Turing in Manchester this weekend. Turing was a mathematician, a very good one, possibly a genius – but nevertheless, most mathematicians don’t get this kind of celebrity treatment.
Turing’s fame depends on 2 periods of his life:
Firstly, during World War II, he led the team of cryptographers at Bletchley Park who cracked the German Enigma Code, thereby (according to Winston Churchill) shortening the war by 2 years.
Secondly, in 1952, the Manchester police charged him with ‘gross indecency’ for a consensual homosexual act. He was given the choice of imprisonment, or a series of compulsory injections of oestrogen to cause ‘chemical castration’. He…
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