Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Rehabilitating Alan Turing

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 3rd September, 2009

Alan TuringI spent the past couple of days at Sherborne School in Dorset, briefing teachers who are going out to Qatar tomorrow to open a branch of Sherborne in Doha. As the Headmaster was showing us round the (English) school, I was delighted to hear him pay tribute to old boy Alan Turing, who was a key figure in cracking the Nazis’ enigma code at Bletchley Park during the Second World War, but later commited suicide by eating an apple laced with cyanide, following his prosecution for gross indecency and his chemical castration. The man who even Time magazine once cited as among the 100 most important men in the 20th century has consequently never truly been accorded the public recognition he deserves in Britain — particularly when one considers how important he was in the development of modern computers. It is terrific that Sherborne School now portrays him as a hero to the boys, warts and all.

Meanwhile, thanks to the hard work of John Graham-Cumming, author of The Geek Atlas, an online petition to Gordon Brown (as Prime Minister) to ‘ap0logise for the persecution of Alan Turing that led to his untimely death.’ Well over 26,000 people have already signed and the petition is open for another four-and-a-half months. Oscar Wilde has long been accorded the stellar position he deserves in the British literary firmament. It would be fitting that Alan Turing achieves the same happy outcome in its scientific equivalent.

[Postscript 12 September: Gordon Brown has indeed now issued an elegant and sincere apology. Thank you, Number 10!]

Link: http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/turing

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