60 years after suicide, British mathematician Alan Turing gets Royal Pardon

24 Dec 2013


Nearly 60 years after his death, British mathematician Alan Turing, regarded as one of the central figures in the development of the computer, was yesterday granted a Royal Pardon by Queen Elizabeth II, for his conviction in 1952 on charges of homosexuality, which, at the time was a criminal offense in the UK.

The announcement of the pardon was made by the UK's justice secretary, Chris Grayling, who had made the request to the queen.

Crediting Turing with the ''most remarkable achievement of helping to develop the machines and algorithms that unscrambled the supposedly impenetrable Enigma code used by the Germans in World War II'', Grayling said in a statement that Turing, deserved to be remembered and recognised for his fantastic contribution to the war effort and his legacy to science.

UK prime minister, David Cameron, said in a statement, ''His action saved countless lives. He also left a remarkable national legacy through his substantial scientific achievements, often being referred to as the 'father of modern computing.' ''

Turing committed suicide in 1954 at the age of 41, two years after being convicted on charges of gross indecency. In a 1936 research paper, Turing envisaged a computing machine capable of performing a variety of tasks by altering its software, rather than its hardware.

Turing committed suicide by consuming a cyanide laced apple, after being sentenced to chemical castration for the "gross indecency" of homosexuality.

The UK decriminalised homosexuality in 1967.

"A pardon from the Queen is a fitting tribute to an exceptional man," Grayling said.

The pardon comes as a victory for supporters, including leading scientists such as the UK's Stephen Hawking, who campaigned long for clearing Turing's name.

Gordon Brown, the UK's prime minister in 2009, issued a posthumous apology to the code-breaker, saying he had been treated terribly (UK premier Gordon Brown apologises to dead British computing pioneer).

The British government had last year turned down a call for official pardon on the grounds that the mathematician had been properly convicted of what was then a criminal offence.

Over 37,000 people signed an online petition last year calling for a pardon.(See: Apology petition for defamed UK mathematician Alan Turing gathers pace)

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