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Alan Turing Pardoned 415

Posted by samzenpus
from the least-we-could-do dept.
First time accepted submitter a.ferrier writes "Today's computing would be unthinkable without the contributions of the British mathematician Alan Turing, who laid down the foundations of computer science, broke Nazi codes that helped win World War II at the famous Bletchley Park, created a secure speech encryption system, made major contributions to logic and philosophy, and even invented the concept of Artificial Intelligence. But he was also an eccentric and troubled man who was persecuted (and prosecuted) for being gay, a tragedy that contributed to his suicide just short of the age of 42 when he died of cyanide poisoning, possibly from a half-eaten apple found by his side. He is hailed today as one of the great originators of our computing age. Today he received a royal pardon."
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Alan Turing Pardoned

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  • Re:Pardon? A Pardon? (Score:5, Informative)

    by newcastlejon (1483695) on Monday December 23, 2013 @06:59PM (#45770493)

    An abject apology would be a good start.

    The then prime minister made one four years ago. [telegraph.co.uk] I remember at the time that people were complaining that it wasn't enough and a pardon should be issued.

  • Re:Biography (Score:5, Informative)

    by SternisheFan (2529412) on Monday December 23, 2013 @07:02PM (#45770511)
    ...Turing was arrested for violation of British homosexuality statutes in 1952 when he reported to the police details of a homosexual affair. He had gone to the police because he had been threatened with blackmail. He was tried as a homosexual on 31 March 1952, offering no defence other than that he saw nothing wrong in his actions. Found guilty he was given the alternatives of prison or oestrogen injections for a year. He accepted the latter and returned to a wide range of academic pursuits....

    The decoding operation at Bletchley Park became the basis for the new decoding and intelligence work at GCHQ. With the cold war this became an important operation and Turing continued to work for GCHQ, although his Manchester colleagues were totally unaware of this. After his conviction, his security clearance was withdrawn. Worse than that, security officers were now extremely worried that someone with complete knowledge of the work going on at GCHQ was now labelled a security risk. He had many foreign colleagues, as any academic would, but the police began to investigate his foreign visitors. A holiday which Turing took in Greece in 1953 caused consternation among the security officers.

    Turing died of potassium cyanide poisoning while conducting electrolysis experiments. The cyanide was found on a half eaten apple beside him. An inquest concluded that it was self-administered but his mother always maintained that it was an accident.

    http://www-history.mcs.st-and.ac.uk/Biographies/Turing.html [st-and.ac.uk]

    http://www.turing.org.uk/bio/part1.html [turing.org.uk]

  • Re:Not enough, (Score:5, Informative)

    by hydrofix (1253498) on Monday December 23, 2013 @07:48PM (#45770831)
    In 2009, Prime Minister Gordon Brown already apologised [theguardian.com] for the "inhumane" treatment of Alan Turing on the behalf of his government.
  • Re:Not enough, (Score:5, Informative)

    by ImdatS (958642) on Monday December 23, 2013 @08:11PM (#45770979) Homepage

    Actually, he is an OBE (Officer of the Order of Most Excellence of the British Empire - wow, what a title) - (or was it an MBE?)

    As I understand, OBE is the fourth-level. The highest level is something like Knight Grand Cross of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (GBE). According to Wikipedia, this is the order:

    1. Knight Grand Cross or Dame Grand Cross of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (GBE)
    2. Knight Commander or Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (KBE or DBE)
    3. Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE)
    4. Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE)
    5. Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE)

    Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Order_of_the_British_Empire [wikipedia.org]

    Once he reaches Level 2 or 1, we can then finally call him "Sir Alan Turing", which he more than deserves...

  • Re:Not enough, (Score:5, Informative)

    by RDW (41497) on Monday December 23, 2013 @08:33PM (#45771113)

    In 2017 we can expect the next PM to retroactively drop charges and build a statue in his honor.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Turing_Memorial [wikipedia.org]

  • by dnavid (2842431) on Monday December 23, 2013 @09:33PM (#45771535)

    Charges should have been dropped. A pardon implies that he was actually guilty of something worthy of criminalization .

    The poor bastard had to deal with the horseshit while he was alive. This pardoning and whatever long after he's dead accomplished nothing.

    It's just PR for little political people that want to pander to the Gay and Lesbian community.

    That's pretty harsh considering that's tantamount to accusing the members of the gay and lesbian community that advocated a pardon as merely seeking a little PR and pandering.

    In any case, in the UK a pardon implies the person in question was technically guilty according to the letter of the law, but deserves to escape the legal consequences of the conviction because of a belief they are not "morally guilty." It says nothing about "worthy of criminalization." And the legal issue here seems to be that at one time the power of the pardon in the UK was reserved for people that were "morally and technically innocent" of the crime they were convicted of, but in modern times that distinction is split. The constitutional government has the power to pardon criminals under exceptional circumstances but almost never does because if a strong case can be made for "technical innocence" there's an appeals court designated to handle such cases. But the legal process is essentially to invoke an appeal of the case and a new trial which would be nonsensical for Turing. The alternative rests with the constitutional monarch who can pardon for "moral innocence" which doesn't involve being technically innocent under the law.

    Its unclear if the government has the legal option to drop Turing's charges or vacate them because there exists no legal evidence he was innocent of the crime he freely confessed to commiting at the time of the conviction.

A LISP programmer knows the value of everything, but the cost of nothing. -- Alan Perlis

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