Father of computer science Alan Turing gets royal pardon 61 years after being convicted

Earlier today, Britain granted computer pioneer and ace codebreaker Alan Turing a posthumous royal pardon, which overturns a 61-year-old conviction, the BBC reported.

Turing was convicted for being a homosexual, and display of indecency. His punishment was being chemically castrated – a barbaric practice that force-fed convicts with estrogen so their sexual appetite would wither away. The procedure known as "organo-therapy," left Turing impotent and he developed breasts. A year after this brutal ‘treatment’ started, Turing allegedly killed himself using cyanide in 1954.

Turing's statue at the Bletchley Park Museum

Turing's statue at the Bletchley Park Museum


The barbaric treatment meted out to him was despite his stellar codecracking work during the Second World War that helped Britain overcome its enemies. It helped accelerate Allied efforts to read German Naval messages which were coded using the Enigma machine. The pardon was granted after a request by UK Justice Minister Chris Grayling. "Dr Alan Turing was an exceptional man with a brilliant mind," said Grayling, before adding that Turing’s work during the war shortened the global conflict and saved thousands of lives.

Turing's biggest success in computer science came with solving a central problem posed by German mathematician, David Hilbert in 1900. He showed that one could not construct a universal machine or formula that proved whether any given mathematical statement was itself provable. During the course, he invented the Universal Turing Machine that could simulate any other machine. Eventually Turing started focussing on the problem of getting machines to think and came up with the Turing Test. Essentially, he developed the foundations of what we now call a computer.

"Turing deserves to be remembered and recognised for his fantastic contribution to the war effort and his legacy to science. A pardon from the Queen is a fitting tribute to an exceptional man."

Published Date: Dec 24, 2013 12:11 pm | Updated Date: Dec 24, 2013 12:11 pm