Alan Turing, computer pioneer, receives royal pardon

Dec 23, 2013

Alan Turing, one of the most important pioneers of the computer world, was given a bit of honor last summer in a Google tribute on what would have been his 100th birthday. Fast-forward a little over a year, and the codebreaker, pioneer, and all-around genius has received a royal pardon posthumously for a conviction that lead to his untimely death.

During World War II, Turing worked as a codebreaker and is credited with cracking German Naval messages that were coded using the Enigma machine, something said to have both saved thousands of lives and reduced the amount of time spent fighting. Beyond his work in codebreaking, he also made great strides in computing, pioneering, among other things, the concept of algorithms.

Unfortunately, in 1952, Turing was convicted of homosexuality and was sentenced to chemical castration, a charge that also lead to the loss of his security clearance and codebreaking activities. Two years later, Turing died of cyanide poisoning, something popularly believed to have been a suicide. The reason for the death is in dispute, however, with others believing it was an accident instead.

Said Justice Minister Chris Grayling: "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conviction for homosexual activity, a sentence we would now consider unjust and discriminatory and which has now been repealed. 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."


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