Monday, September 14, 2009

Will they also apologize to Oscar Wilde?

On Friday, Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Britain issued a public apology to Alan Turing, a mathematician and computer pioneer whose work as a code breaker during World War II helped defeat Nazi Germany. Mr. Turing was convicted of “gross indecency” in 1952 for having a homosexual affair and was forced to endure injections of female hormones. Two years later, killed himself by biting into a poisoned apple.

In his statement, Mr. Brown said:

Turing was a quite brilliant mathematician, most famous for his work on breaking the German Enigma codes. It is no exaggeration to say that, without his outstanding contribution, the history of World War II could well have been very different. He truly was one of those individuals we can point to whose unique contribution helped to turn the tide of war. The debt of gratitude he is owed makes it all the more horrifying, therefore, that he was treated so inhumanely. In 1952, he was convicted of ‘gross indecency’ — in effect, tried for being gay. His sentence — and he was faced with the miserable choice of this or prison — was chemical castration by a series of injections of female hormones. He took his own life just two years later.

Thousands of people have come together to demand justice for Alan Turing and recognition of the appalling way he was treated. While Turing was dealt with under the law of the time and we can’t put the clock back, his treatment was of course utterly unfair and I am pleased to have the chance to say how deeply sorry I and we all are for what happened to him.

Turing was also very important in the development of artificial intelligence.

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