Robert Hampton

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24th December 2013

Turing Blessed
Posted by at 5.50pm | In the News | 1 response

Alan Turing, the brilliant computer scientist who was instrumental in cracking enemy codes during World War II, and played a crucial role in the development of early computers during the 40s and 50s, has received a royal pardon for his historic conviction of “gross indecency”.

Turing’s treatment, from today’s perspective, seems appalling. He fell in love with and had consensual sex with another man, a serious crime in those times. Turing was convicted in March 1952 and forced, as part of his punishment, to accept oestrogen injections to reduce his libido. The “treatment” left Turing, a former track and field athlete, a shadow of his former self. He died just over two years later after eating a cyanide-laced apple (the coroner ruled it a suicide, although Turing’s mother disagreed with the verdict, believing it to be an accident).

On the face of it, Turing’s pardon should be a welcome gesture, a signal from the Government of changing attitudes. I do, however, have a problem with one man receiving a pardon for his conviction under an unjust law, while 50,000 other people (according to Peter Tatchell’s estimate) will not be pardoned. Some of these people are still alive – a pardon would be more than a symbolic gesture for them.

Turing should not be singled out because of his contribution to science and the war effort, great though it was. It seems that you can just about get away with being gay, as long as you are a national hero as well.