« Glittering data | Main | Both Flesh and Not - Where little advantages add up to a lot »

A Gift From The Past

“We can only see a short distance ahead, but we can see plenty there that needs to be done.”
― Alan M. Turing

Way back in 2009, I wrote about Prime Minister Gordon Brown's apology to Alan Turing (About Time), with the hope that the apology would turn into a formal pardon. Alan Turing was gay, and I've read that he believed that his legacy would be not just his world-changing work at Bletchley Park but his stand for gay rights in Britain. It didn't initially turn out that way for him: he was prosecuted for indecency, chemically castrated, and died at his own hand from a cyanide-laced apple. He deserved better.

Perhaps 2009 was at least a step in the right direction. Word from Britain (where there is more news than just the Royal Baby...) is that Alan Turing may finally be on his way to a full pardon. As Lord Sharkey notes in The Guardian:

"The government know that Turing was a hero and a very great man. They acknowledge that he was cruelly treated. They must have seen the esteem in which he is held here and around the world."

Even more compelling is this quote from Lady Trumpington:

"I am certain that but for his work we would have lost the war through starvation."

This final quote reveals a personal gift, down through the years from Alan Turing to me. My fiancée Kate's great aunt Joan worked at Bletchley as well, and her family is English and she herself was born in London. Without the work of Alan Turing, Joan Harvey and so many more, Britain might well have sought a separate peace with Germany in 1940. In that world it's doubtful that Kate's parents (her father was an American Army officer) would ever have met, so in my world

No Alan Turing = No Kate

As I've written before, I have benefitted from Alan Turing's work as a computer scientist. I have now also personally benefitted from his genius. Surely that's worth a full pardon...