Treatment of Alan Turing was “appalling” – PM

Gordon Brown has apologised for the treatment of Alan Turing following the war, after over 30,000 virtual signatures were added to a petition asking him to do so.

[Alan] Turing is often considered to be the father of modern computer science. He provided an influential formalisation of the concept of the algorithm and computation with the Turing machine. In 1999 Time Magazine named Turing as one of the 100 Most Important People of the 20th Century for his role in the creation of the modern computer, stating: “The fact remains that everyone who taps at a keyboard, opening a spreadsheet or a word-processing program, is working on an incarnation of a Turing machine.” – Wikipedia

During the Second World War he was part of the effort to decrypt messages encoded using Enigma machines that the Germans, Italians and Japanese used to communicate securely. He built machines capable of decrypting these messages much faster than would ever be possible by human beings, and it was during this work that he developed his ideas that later led to computing.

He died very young, at the age of 41. He committed suicide two years after being convicted of ‘gross indecency’ – because he was gay. He was subject to an experimental treatment of chemical castration during which he was injected with female hormones in order to reduce his libido, which understandably led to severe depression followed by his untimely death.

Without Turing, the War would definitely have had a different outcome. Computers and the Internet may never have been invented. The world as we know it would be a very different place. Thankfully we no longer treat homosexuals in such horrible ways anymore, and let us hope such a tragedy never gets repeated.

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