Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Alan Turing

Samuel on The Tragic Tale of Alan Turing:

An e-petition, calling for the pioneer of modern computing, Alan Turing, to be honored with a picture on the £10 note, now has over 10,000 signatures. Turing invented the machine that helped the allies crack the German navy’s Enigma code, hastening the end of World War II, but not long after his code-breaking, successes, in 1952, he woke up one morning to discover that a number of things around his house were missing. It looked kind of like a burglary. He was missing a shirt, some shoes, an old pair of pants, and other household stuff. So, what did he do? He called the police. The detectives come to his house and to speak with him, and as they listen to him, they decide, he’s kind of a curious chap. They let him talk, and they’re like “it’s such a shame that we have to arrest him.” Who? Turing?

Why in the world would they arrest Turing? Because he had implicated himself in a crime. Here’s what happened. The police ask him “who do you think robbed you?” and he suspected an acquaintance of his boyfriend. Yes, his boyfriend. At the time, there was a law in England that criminalized “acts of gross indecency between men in public or private.” Even in the 1950s, Turing was never ashamed of being gay and simply didn’t understand why the police were going to arrest him. There were other gay men in England, even many in government, and it’s lost to history whether the arresting officers knew they were incarcerating a war hero who singlehandedly shortened World War II by at least two years and one of the greatest minds of the 20th century.


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