British finally apologize to Alan Turing; PM Gordon Brown says "sorry"

The British government has finally said sorry to Alan Turing: WWII computer hero and father of modern computer science. In IT Blogwatch, bloggers savor Prime Minister Gordon Brown's apology for the way Turing was treated because he was gay.

By Richi Jennings. September 11, 2009.

Your humble blogwatcher selected these bloggy morsels for your enjoyment. Not to mention The Cat Piano...

John Graham-Cumming tweets twice:

Just received a call from the Prime Minister regarding my Alan Turing petition. Expect a public announcement shortly.


Thank you to everyone who helped make the Alan Turing apology happen. Will blog later; currently bed ridden with the flu.

Aunty BBC confirms the news:

Gordon Brown has said he is sorry for the "appalling" way World War II code breaker Alan Turing was treated for being gay. ... In 1952 Turing was prosecuted for gross indecency.


The campaign was the idea of computer scientist John Graham-Cumming. He was seeking an apology for the way the mathematician was treated after his conviction. He also wrote to the Queen to ask for Turing to be awarded a posthumous knighthood. The campaign was backed by Ian McEwan, scientist Richard Dawkins and gay-rights campaigner Peter Tatchell. The petition posted on the Downing Street website attracted thousands of signatures.

Jack Schofield sucks on his pipe:

Turing made a significant contribution to computer science with his 1936 paper, On Computable Numbers, and came up with the concept of what we still call the Turing Test for intelligent machines. However, he is best known for his code-breaking work at Bletchley Park during the second world war, where he helped to develop the Bombe that deciphered messages encoded using Enigma machines.


The petition was launched by John Graham-Cumming, a computer scientist, blogger, and author of The Geek Atlas. ... As Graham-Cumming commented later: "You don't have to be gay to think that prosecuting a man for a private consensual sex act who just seven years before had been hailed as a hero of the Second World War was simply wrong. You simply have to be human.".

Rupert Goodwins groks the meta-significance:

It is tremendous that as a result of this, more people will know of and perhaps come to understand the importance of intellect in the service of a greater good. The story of Bletchley Park is still new and somewhat raw, but it shows the resilience and capabilities of a free society dedicated to its cause, in the face of a ferocious enemy utterly devoted to injustice and the ascendency of self-serving power.


With luck, the story of Turing will become part of the body of national myth which celebrates the best of our culture, warns against the worst, and so helps us decide how to behave towards ourselves and others. It's hard to think what could have more potential or lasting importance.

But this Anonymous Coward expected more:

It's a shame [Brown] didn't at least pay passing tribute to Turing's full accomplishments. Cracking Enigma and "quite brilliant mathemetician" don't do the man justice.

  I like Wikipedia's "often considered to be the father of modern computer science" as a starting point.

Meanwhile, megamerican channels a phamous philosopher:

Plato said that there is no true measure of justice, but it is important for a government to give the appearance of justice to society. This is a textbook example of that in action.

So what's your take?
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Richi Jennings is an independent analyst/consultant, specializing in blogging, email, and spam. A 24 year, cross-functional IT veteran, he is also an analyst at Ferris Research. You can follow him as @richi on Twitter or richij on FriendFeed, pretend to be Richi's friend on Facebook, or just use good old email:

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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