British Government Issues Apology to Alan Turing

Tue Sep 22 9:59:55 2009 EDT (-0400 GMT)

I feel badly that I missed this, but I was so busy at the time.

John Graham-Cumming’s petition to have the British Government apologies for the homophobia that lead to the conviction of Alan Turing for the “Mental Illness” of homosexuality was successful!

Alan Touring worked during the Second World War for the British Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park. His work helped crack the German Enigma code, an advantage that made a huge impact on allied strategy and ultimate success.

As a professor at the University of Manchester and Cambridge he was influential in the development of computer science and developing the concept of the algorithm and computation with the Turing machine. His Turing test was the original benchmark for determining artificial intelligence.

The Turing test is basically a test where a human judge engages in a natural language conversation with one human and one machine, each of which tries to appear human. If the judge can’t tell the machine from the human, the machine is said to have passed the test. The T in CAPTCHA (those squiggles on websites to confirm if you are human or not) stands for the Turing test: Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart.

Lastly the Turing programming language, developed in 1982 at the U of T, was the first programming language I was taught…… well it was only named after Turing, so we can’t hold that against him.

In 1952 Turing was convicted of the crime of homosexuality. Instead of two years of prison or hard labour he accepted the alternative punishment of being injected with female hormones. The percussion and mental and physical effects of the female hormones (and I’m sure much more) drove him to commit suicide in 1954 by eating cyanide poisoned apple.

On September 10th, Gordon Brown apologized, saying “…on behalf of the British government, and all those who live freely thanks to Alan’s work I am very proud to say: we’re sorry, you deserved so much better.”

No one deserve to be treated the way he was, least of all a war here. More can be found on the BBC’s web site.