Queen pardons famed code breaker, ‘convicted homosexual’ Alan Turing
Nearly 60 years after his death, Queen Elizabeth II has formally pardoned famed British mathematician and computer scientist Alan Turing.
Turing, widely considered to be the father of computer science and artificial intelligence and most famous for his work on breaking the German Enigma codes during World War II, was chemically castrated after being convicted in 1952 of “gross indecency” with another man.
Turing has been officially pardoned by Elizabeth II under the little-known Royal Prerogative of Mercy.
“We in consideration of circumstances humbly represented unto us, are graciously pleased to extend our grace and mercy unto the said Alan Mathison Turing and to grant him our free pardon posthumously in respect of the said convictions,” reads the Queen’s pardon.
The pardon comes after a change of heart by British government, which had previously insisted that Turing was properly convicted of what at the time was a criminal offense.
Turing, who was gay, was criminally prosecuted under Britain’s 1885 Criminal Law Amendment Act that criminalized homosexual activity and led to the convictions of over 49,000 British men, including Oscar Wilde.
Faced with the prospect of imprisonment, and perhaps with it the loss of the mathematics post he held at Manchester University, which gave him access to one of the world’s only computers, Turing accepted the alternative of “chemical castration” — a series of injections of female hormones that were supposed to suppress his sexual urges.
At age 41, he died of cyanide poisoning on June 7, 1954 in what was ruled a suicide.
“Turing was an exceptional man with a brilliant mind,” Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said in a prepared statement released Tuesday. Describing Turing’s treatment as unjust, Grayling said the code breaker “deserves to be remembered and recognized for his fantastic contribution to the war effort and his legacy to science.”