Friday, September 11, 2009

Britain Apologizes and Thanks Alan Turing

Dan MacKinnon (who writes the mathrecreation blog) alerted me to this moving news. The prime minister of the UK*, Gordon Brown, issued a statement today, apologizing for the terrible treatment Alan Turing suffered at the hands of British courts. Alan Turing was a computer scientist whose computer work helped decode the German Enigma codes (ciphers, really), which helped win the war. But he wasn't knighted, instead he was persecuted.

From the prime minister's statement:
In 1952, he was convicted of ‘gross indecency’ – in effect, tried for being gay. His sentence – and he was faced with the miserable choice of this or prison - was chemical castration by a series of injections of female hormones. He took his own life just two years later.

I am impressed at Prime Minister Brown's courage. I can't imagine Obama thanking LGBT activists as Brown does at the beginning of this statement.

* I had to look it up to know whether I should say Britain, England, or the U.K. Yahoo answers says: "England is a part of Britain. Great Britain is a large island and many smaller ones, off the north west coast of Europe. The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the political name of this group of islands. Northern Ireland is composed of 6 counties at the north east of Eire in the island of Ireland." PM Brown refers to Britain at the beginning of his statement. I wonder if Northern Ireland feels left out.

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