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British Apologize to Gay WW2 Codebreaker Alan Turing

This week, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown offered a belated apology to one of the most famed computer scientists in history. Alan Turing, the hallowed Father of Modern Computer Science, was instrumental in breaking the German’s “Enigma Code” during WW2. He was also gay.

The history of Alan Turing is a sad one. A few years after he broke the German’s code for the British government – which Winston Churchill claimed was the most significant, tide-turning victory of WW2 – he was outed as a homosexual and arrested. At the time, homosexuality was considered a mental disorder. It was also illegal. He lost his security clearance, effectively canning him from his government job, and was convicted of “gross indecency.” To avoid prison, Turing chose to instead undergo a chemical castration process. Two years later, he committed suicide.

Today, the Association for Computing Machinery grants the “Turing Award” each year. It’s something like the Nobel Prize for computing – i.e. a pretty big friggin’ deal. The British government’s apology, while appreciated,  is long overdue.

Read a couple of Turing-related posts here and here.

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