Who were the more treacherous ones ? The German thugs ? Or, The selfish English ?
Remembering the enigma 67 years after his death : Alan Mathison Turing
Based on :
2. Alan Turing The Enigma, by Andrew Hodges, Pub.: Simon & Schuster (1983)
Alan Mathison Turing
Born: 23 June 1912, Maida Vale, London, England
Died : 7 June 1954 (aged 41), Wilmslow, Cheshire, England
Cause of death : Suicide (suspected but not confirmed) by cyanide poisoning
This is the enigmatic true-story of an intellectual giant who is the basis and reason for our modern digital world. Alan Mathison Turing OBE FRS (23 June 1912 – 7 June 1954) was an English mathematician, computer scientist, logician, cryptanalyst, philosopher, and theoretical biologist. Turing was highly influential in the development of theoretical computer science, providing a formalisation of the concepts of algorithm and computation with the Turing machine, which can be considered a model of a general-purpose computer. Turing machines are a central object of study in theory of computation. In computational theory, Turing machines are considered rivals to Alonzo Church’s Lambda calculus. Although Turing’s proof was published shortly after Alonzo Church’s equivalent proof using his lambda calculus, Turing’s approach is considerably more accessible and intuitive than Church’s. According to the Church–Turing thesis, Turing machines and the lambda calculus are capable of computing anything that is computable. John von Neumann acknowledged that the central concept of the modern computer was due to Turing’s paper.
Turing worked for the Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS) at Bletchley Park, Britain’s codebreaking centre. While working at Bletchley Park, Turing, who was also a talented long-distance runner, occasionally ran the 40 miles (64 km) to London when he was needed for meetings, as he was capable of world-class marathon standards. He would often be seen riding to work, on his bicycle. To match his
prolific physical stamina, he had an incredibly bright mental prowess.
Turing is widely considered to be the father of theoretical computer science and artificial intelligence. Despite all his incredible accomplishments, he was never fully recognised in his home country during his lifetime because much of his work was covered by the Official Secrets Act. On the contrary, he suffered utmost humiliation and shame, based on a flimsy and questionable event, and died a pitiable death.
During the Second World War, Turing worked for the Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS) at Bletchley Park, Britain’s codebreaking centre that produced Ultra intelligence. Turing played a crucial role in cracking intercepted coded messages that enabled the Allies to defeat the Nazis in many crucial engagements, including the Battle of the Atlantic. It is estimated that this work shortened the war in Europe by more than two years and saved over 14 million lives.
In 1952, Turing was arrested and charged with “gross indecency” under Section 11 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885. Homosexual acts were criminal offences in the United Kingdom at that time. Turing was convicted and given a choice between imprisonment and probation. His probation would be conditional on his agreement to undergo hormonal physical changes designed to reduce libido.He accepted chemical castration treatment, with DES (diethylstilbestrol), as an alternative to prison. He accepted the option of injections of what was then called stilboestrol (now known as diethylstilbestrol or DES), a synthetic oestrogen; this humiliating feminization of his body was continued for the course of one year. The treatment rendered Turing impotent and caused breast tissue to form, fulfilling in the literal sense Turing’s prediction that “no doubt I shall emerge from it all a different man, but quite who I’ve not found out”.
On 4 September 1939, the day after the UK declared war on Germany, Turing reported to Bletchley Park, the wartime station of GC&CS (Government Code and Cyber School) and created all the formidable magic which went against the Germans and their enigma machines. But in 1952, Turing’s conviction led to the removal of his security clearance and barred him from continuing with his cryptographic consultancy for the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the British signals intelligence agency that had evolved from GC&CS in 1946, though he kept his academic job. He was denied entry into the United States after his conviction in 1952, but was free to visit other European countries. Turing was never accused of espionage but, in common with all who had worked at Bletchley Park, he was prevented by the Official Secrets Act from discussing his war work. According to the conspiracy theory, it is possible that the secret services considered him too great a security risk and assassinated one of the most brilliant minds in their employ.
Turing was appointed an officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1946. He was also elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 1951, the anti-climax was reached in 1952 when he was arrested for homosexuality.
Heart-broken, humiliated by the very people whom he saved, embarassed, insulted and treated as an untouchable, Turing put an end to it all in 1954 by biting into a (suspected but not confirmed) cyanide-laced apple (he was just over 41 years). There was no autopsy performed and there was no coroner’s report on his death. Only a haphazard, half-hearted “investigation” was done and only speculative reasons were found. In 2009, following a campaign (by brilliant people like Stephen Hawking), British Prime Minister Gordon Brown made an official public apology on behalf of the British government for “the appalling way he was treated”. Queen Elizabeth II granted Turing a posthumous pardon in 2013, some 59 years LATER than his mysterious death.
And 8 years after that, in 2021, the UK Government released a 50 Pound currency note in his honour, 67 years after his death/suicide (See: https://www.bankofengland.co.uk/banknotes/polymer-50-pound-note ). Since he died when he was just 41, he should have lived up to 108 years (67+41) to see all these reconcilliatory gestures (aka eye wash).
Will any of these gestures make him rise from his grave ?
Who were the more treacherous ones ? The thugs Germans ? The selfish English ?