Queen Pardons WWII Codebreaker

Alan Turing committed suicide after gross indecency conviction

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Dec 24, 2013 3:28 AM CST | Updated Dec 24, 2013 7:43 AM CST

(Newser) – Alan Turing, widely hailed as the father of modern computing, helped the Allies win World War II by cracking Nazi Germany's Enigma code—but after the war, Britain repaid him by persecuting him for his homosexuality, leading to a conviction for gross indecency in 1952, followed by chemical castration and his suicide by cyanide poisoning at the age of 41. Now, he has been officially pardoned by Queen Elizabeth II in one of just four pardons granted since 1945 under the little-known Royal Prerogative of Mercy, the Independent reports.

The pardon followed a campaign supported by scientists including Stephen Hawking and an official apology from then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown in 2009. Britain's Justice Secretary says Turing deserves to be remembered for "his fantastic contribution to the war effort" and not the later conviction. "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conviction for homosexual activity, a sentence we would now consider unjust and discriminatory and which has now been repealed," he says. "A pardon from the Queen is a fitting tribute to an exceptional man."

Alan Turing, a pioneer of computing and artificial intelligence, committed suicide in 1954.
Alan Turing, a pioneer of computing and artificial intelligence, committed suicide in 1954.   (National Portrait Gallery)
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