An Apology for Alan Turing

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Reading this on a computer screen? Thank Alan Turing. Not reading it in German? Thank Alan Turing again.

Turing’s theoretical work in the 30s laid the foundations for computer science; his more hands-on efforts as a codebreaker at Britain’s Bletchley Park helped ensure that the Allies could read enciphered Nazi messages. Turing’s reward for these services to his country—and species—was to be prosecuted for “gross indecency” after naively disclosing his homosexuality to police. He was subjected to chemical castration, had his security clearance revoked, and within two years took his own life by swallowing cyanide.

Now, more than half a century later, a British computer scientist has launched a campaign to secure a formal apology and posthumous pardon for Turing. It would be a small and purely symbolic gesture, but it seems like an appropriate one.

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