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Saturday 10 October 2009


Proclamations of the Red Queen

11th September 2009

Gordon Brown: United Kingdom’s Posthumous Apology for Alan Turing

Posted by: Craig Young

Better late than never! UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown has just apologised for the United Kingdom’s postwar maltreatment of WW2 cryptographer and mathematician Alan Turing, which led to the pioneering computer scientists suicide in the mid-fifties.turing.jpg

Earlier this year, there was a major campaign spearheaded by major public figures from the scientific profession, literary and gay communities, including Professor Richard Dawkins, writer Ian McEwan, Peter Tatchell and Stephen Fry. The petition has become  the fourth most signed petition on the Downing Street website. In issuing the pardon, Brown had this to say:

“…I am both pleased and proud that, thanks to a coalition of computer scientists, historians and LGBT activists, we have this year a chance to mark and celebrate another contribution to Britain’s fight against the darkness of dictatorship; that of code-breaker Alan Turing.

“Turing was a quite brilliant mathematician, most famous for his work on breaking the German Enigma codes. It is no exaggeration to say that, without his outstanding contribution, the history of World War Two could well have been very different. He truly was one of those individuals we can point to whose unique contribution helped to turn the tide of war. The debt of gratitude he is owed makes it all the more horrifying, therefore, that he was treated so inhumanely. In 1952, he was convicted of ‘gross indecency’ - in effect, tried for being gay. His sentence - and he was faced with the miserable choice of this or prison - was chemical castration by a series of injections of female hormones. He took his own life just two years later.

“Thousands of people have come together to demand justice for Alan Turing and recognition of the appalling way he was treated. While Turing was dealt with under the law of the time and we can’t put the clock back, his treatment was of course utterly unfair and I am pleased to have the chance to say how deeply sorry I and we all are for what happened to him. Alan and the many thousands of other gay men who were convicted as he was convicted under homophobic laws were treated terribly. Over the years millions more lived in fear of conviction.

“I am proud that those days are gone and that in the last 12 years this government has done so much to make life fairer and more equal for our LGBT community. This recognition of Alan’s status as one of Britain’s most famous victims of homophobia is another step towards equality and long overdue.

“But even more than that, Alan deserves recognition for his contribution to humankind. For those of us born after 1945, into a Europe which is united, democratic and at peace, it is hard to imagine that our continent was once the theatre of mankind’s darkest hour. It is difficult to believe that in living memory, people could become so consumed by hate - by anti-Semitism, by homophobia, by xenophobia and other murderous prejudices - that the gas chambers and crematoria became a piece of the European landscape as surely as the galleries and universities and concert halls which had marked out the European civilisation for hundreds of years. It is thanks to men and women who were totally committed to fighting fascism, people like Alan Turing, that the horrors of the Holocaust and of total war are part of Europe’s history and not Europe’s present.

“So on behalf of the British government, and all those who live freely thanks to Alan’s work I am very proud to say: we’re sorry, you deserved so much better.”

Recommended:

“PM apology after Turing petition” BBC News: 10.09.09: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/8249792.stm

Tags: Politics

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Paul Litterick // Sep 11, 2009 at 3:05 pm

    Yes, a good thing. Perhaps the British Government (and ours) can now apologise to all the others who were convicted.

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