Alan Turing, the British mathematicial genius who cracked the German Enigma code and helped bring an end to World War II, has received a royal pardon 59 years after his death.
Turing was awarded an OBE for his considerable contribution to wartime defences, but his work at Bletchley Park remained top secret until 1974 – long after his death.
But the other secret in Turing’s life was that he was gay, at a time when homosexuality was illegal. In 1952 he was convicted, and – rather than go to jail – chose to be chemically castrated with injections of female hormones. A truly barbaric punishment for something which shouldn’t be a crime in the first place.
Two years later, he committed suicide by biting into an apple laced with cyanide.
Today, Turing is regarded one of the greatest Briton’s in IT history, and by many as a national hero.
Here is a wonderful video that Cambridge University released in 2012, the centenary of Turing’s birth.
Turing was an incredibly important figure in computing, and his key role in saving the United Kingdom during World War II cannot be underestimated. The treatment he received at the hands of the British authorities has cast a long shadow of shame.
Today, that shadow lifts a little and gives us all a little Christmas cheer.