Pardon for gay British war hero Turing

Pardon for gay British war hero Turing

LAST UPDATED // Wednesday, 15 January 2014 13:55 Written by // Michael Magnusson

The British government has given a posthumous pardon to the code-breaking mathematician and computing pioneer who committed suicide following a conviction for 'homosexual activity'.


During World War II Alan Turing worked on deciphering enemy codes, developing a device that could crack German 'Enigma' messages. Turing's work saved thousands of lives and foreshadowed the modern computer. He was made a Fellow of the Royal Society but in 1952 was convicted of gross indecency after reporting a burglary he thought was committed by an acquaintance of his male lover.

He pleaded guilty and underwent a form of chemical castration as an alternative to a prison sentence. With his security clearance now revoked and rendered impotent by the injections, Turing took his own life in 1954, shortly before his 42nd birthday.

In 2009, the then British prime minister Gordon Brown issued an apology for the way Turing was treated but a private member's bill for a pardon was refused as the Queen could only be asked to use her royal prerogative of mercy where the person was innocent of the offence and the pardon was being sought by a family member.

However, the Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling announced last week that Turing had been given a pardon saying that Turing was an exceptional man whose brilliance was pivotal to breaking the Enigma code, helped end the war and save thousands of lives.

“His later life was overshadowed by his conviction for homosexual activity, a sentence we would now consider unjust and discriminatory and which has now been repealed,” Grayling said.

Turing's pardon coincides with the release of a new film about his life, The Imitation Game was released in the UK on Christmas Eve, and which stars Benedict Cumberbatch (pictured) as Turing.



Michael Magnusson

Michael Magnusson

Michael has written for the gay media for over a decade and has also written for a number of journals, magazines and street presses around Melbourne and websites around the world.

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