A Victim of Prejudice

Alan Turing was born in England in 1912. Early on, he was identified as being a genius, especially in mathematics. At the age of 24, he delivered a paper in which he foresaw the creation of computers.

When England became in engaged in World War II, Alan supported the war effort by breaking German military codes. Without his contributions to the war effort, England may have suffered much greater causalities.

After the war, Alan went to work for the National Physical Laboratory. This was when he created a design for a computer. Much of his work remained unknown to the general public because it was deemed too sensitive for general release.

From early in his life, Alan realized that he was gay. At the time, homosexual behavior was illegal in England. When he was charged with gross indecency, he was given a choice of imprisonment or chemical castration. He chose castration. Two years after his arrest, he committed suicide. Before his suicide, his security clearance was revoked, and he could no longer do his life’s work. He was denied entry into the U.S. Fifty-five years after his death, a petition drive was started urging the British government to apologize for its treatment of Alan. The Prime Minister responded to the petition by describing the treatment of Alan as appalling

Nearly 60 years following his arrest, Queen Elizabeth signed an official pardon of Alan. Subsequently, the British government pardoned all those who were convicted of similar acts under the then existing indecency laws.

Just imagine the justification for governmental jurisdiction over a person’s private life. Can we imagine why a person’s biology should be a matter of governmental concern?  And think about the chilling effects that such governmental interventions might have on a person’s mental health. Alan Turing died at the age of 41. Just imagine what more his brilliant mind might have contributed to society.

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“Father of computer science, mathematician, logician, wartime code-breaker. Victim of prejudice.” – Words on a plaque honoring Alan Turing.

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