THE news that the UK Government is prepared to support a backbench bill that would pardon Alan Turing, who died from cyanide poisoning at the age of 41 in 1954 after he was subjected to “chemical castration” for a gay offence, has been welcomed by the LGBT humanist charity The Pink Triangle Trust.
Alan Turing, known as the father of computer science, was the code breaker who helped win World War 2.
The pardon follows a campaign launched in 2009 with a petition calling on the Government to recognise the “consequences of prejudice” that ended the life of the scientist.
Notable among the campaign’s supporters was the well-known atheist and humanist Professor Richard Dawkins who said that an apology would “send a signal to the world which needs to be sent”, and that Turing might still be alive today if it were not for the repressive, religion-influenced laws which drove him to despair.
The author of The God Delusion, who presented a television programme for Channel 4 on Turing, said the impact of the mathematician’s war work could not be overstated.
Turing arguably made a greater contribution to defeating the Nazis than Eisenhower or Churchill. Thanks to Turing and his colleagues at Bletchley Park, allied generals in the field were consistently, over long periods of the war, privy to detailed German plans before the German generals had time to implement them.
After the war, when Turing’s role was no longer top-secret, he should have been knighted and fêted as a saviour of his nation. Instead, this gentle, stammering, eccentric genius was destroyed, for a ‘crime’, committed in private, which harmed nobody.
PTT Secretary George Broadhead commented:
It was great to have such a prominent atheist and humanist as Richard Dawkins adding his weight to the campaign and it is highly significant that he identified religious-influenced laws as being to blame for Turing’s suicide.
As a gay atheist himself, Alan Turing is a Humanist hero and a pardon after the appalling way he was treated for being gay is long overdue.