Posts Tagged ‘code’

"Sorry, you deserved so much better."

Sunday, September 13th, 2009

It took the Catholic Church over 350 years to recognise it had been wrong about Galileo’s theories and for Pope John Paul II to issue a reversal of his condemnation.  By comparison, the 57 years it has taken the British Government to apologise to Alan Turing might seem quick but I’d argue otherwise.

This week, the British Prime Minister Gordon Brown released a statement concerning Alan Turing the Enigma code breaking mathematician, in which he recognised the “appalling” way Turing was treated by the Government simply for being gay.  Alan Turing and the work he led almost certainly changed the tide of the Second World War. Among geeks, he is remembered not just for his work on breaking the German codes at Bletchley Park but also his significant contribution to early computing.

I can barely begin to comprehend how alone and wretched Turing must have felt when Cold War suspicions, paranoia and homophobia caused his former paymasters to turn on and hound him.  Convicted of a trumped-up charge of ‘gross indecency’ – the same charge leveled against Oscar Wilde – in 1952, Turing was sentenced to chemical castration.  Stripped of his security clearance and forbidden to speak of his work, Turing endured two years of ignominy before committing suicide in 1954.

Previously only remember in the naming of an inner city ring road, a university building and a clutch of statues, a man of Turing’s stature and accomplishments deserved, as Brown said, so much better.