Brown apologises for Turing's treatment

September 11, 2009 // 2:20 p.m.

Tags: #alan-turing #bletchley-park #bombe #enigma-code #gordon-brown #turing #turing-apology

Gordon Brown has issued an official apology to the memory of Alan Turing, often called the father of modern computing, for the government of the day's part in his death.

As reported by the BBC, the apology comes following a petition created by computer scientist John Graham-Cumming which asked for the government to apologise for their treatment of "the greatest computer scientist ever born in Britain" following his conviction for being gay - illegal at the time.

As a result of his sexuality, Turing - responsible for "help[ing to] break the Nazi Enigma code and [telling] us how to tell whether a machine could think" was forced to take chemical castration drugs to curb his libido and was forcibly removed from his work at the Government Communications Headquarters as a codebreaker - thought to be the reasons for his suicide by way of cyanide-laced apple aged 41.

In response to the petition - which gathered more than 30,000 signatures, including the support of noted atheist scientist Richard Dawkins and gay-rights campaigner Peter Tatchell - Brown has issued a statement saying "while Mr Turing was dealt with under the law of the time and we can't put the clock back, his treatment was of course utterly unfair and I am pleased to have the chance to say how deeply sorry I and we all are for what happened to him."

Prime Minister Brown went on to say "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."

Petition organisers have welcomed the apology, and are currently awaiting news following a request to the Queen for Turing to be awarded a posthumous knighthood for his services to the realm.

Have you ever used a Turing Test to see if an artificial intelligence can fool a human? Perhaps you've benefited from his work on 'universal machines,' the foundation for modern computing? Share your comments over in the forums.
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