Gordon Brown apologizes to Alan Turing - 57 years later

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Gordon Brown apologizes to Alan Turing - 57 years later

I never thought this would happen.

[url=Gordon">http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/politics/gordon-brown/6170112... Brown: I'm proud to say sorry to a real war hero[/url]

Turing was a quite brilliant mathematician, most famous for his work on breaking the German Enigma codes. It is no exaggeration to say that, without his outstanding contribution, the history of the Second World War could have been very different. [...]

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.

If you don't know the story of Alan Turing (who was also a great pioneer in computer science and artificial intelligence - the "Turing machine"), please take a moment to look him up and honour his memory and contributions.


remind remind's picture

Thank you for this unionist, I did not know.


Wow.  As a computer geek, Turing is one of my heroes.  I just finished Neal Stephenson's "Diamond Age" which makes lots of references to Turing machines.  I even watched the great production with Derek Jacobi playing Turing.

Good news indeed.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

What a hypocritical shit he is. Thousands of men were persecuted for being gay, and he apologizes to one of them. Why? because Turing was a "war hero"!

And the occasion? 65 years since the Normandy invasion and 70 years since Britain's declaration of war. This is all about war, nothing else.





M. Spector wrote:

What a hypocritical shit he is. Thousands of men were persecuted for being gay, and he apologizes to one of them. Why? because Turing was a "war hero"!


This story isn't about Gordon Brown, who is indeed a hypocritical shit. It is about Alan Turing, and the tens of thousands of people who campaigned to have this savage act of the British society recognized and revoked.


Joe's take on this:



I love this man's blog.



Touring was more than just a war hero. He is considered the father of the computing theory and modern cryptoanalysis, the Einstien of computer science. And the annual "Touring Award" by ACM is the equivalent of Nobel prize for the computing field.

More on him:



bagkitty bagkitty's picture

Words are cheap. Last I checked there was a whole legislative agenda that could be implmented at little cost that would ensure equality for the LGBT communities in the UK. Marriage, adoption, expungement of criminal records for those still living who may have been convicted under gross indencency or sodomy laws. It's not like we are demanding reparations or anything....


[ETA] Not to mention laws and regulations governing refugee status and immigration for the purposes of uniting partners one of whom may not be a UK citizen. If he has seen the light, he should act on his realization.


Wiki says about Turing state machines:

A Turing machine that is able to simulate any other Turing machine is called a Universal Turing machine

 I had no idea. You can learn something new every day.




HA! Laughing

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

That picture is interesting in more ways than one.

Alan Turing's [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turing_test]"Turing Test"[/url] was devised as a test of the ability of a computer to demonstrate artificial intelligence. It proceeds as follows: a human judge engages in a natural language conversation with one human and one machine, each of which tries to appear human. All participants are placed in isolated locations and communicate by text messaging. If the human judge cannot reliably tell the machine from the human, the machine is said to have passed the test.

In a similar vein, it can be challenging to create a parody of religious fundamentalism that can't possibly be mistaken for the real thing. This is known as [url=http://www.christianforums.com/t1962980-6/#post17606580]Poe's Law[/url], which says as follows: "Without a winking smiley or other blatant display of humor, it is utterly impossible to parody a Creationist in such a way that someone won't mistake for the genuine article."

[url=http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Poe%27s%20Law]In other words,[/url] "no matter how bizarre, outrageous, or just plain idiotic a parody of a Fundamentalist may seem, there will always be someone who cannot tell that it is a parody, having seen similar REAL ideas from real religious/political Fundamentalists."

The above picture is of such a parody: it is totally bizarre and outrageous, but nevertheless there will be some who cannot tell it is a parody, because genuine religious fundamentalism inherently has no limits on how bizarre and outrageous it can be.

As a corollary of Poe's Law, there can be no "Poe test" analogous to the "Turing test", because no human judge can reliably tell the genuine article from the parody!

Ken Burch

I assume that's why the woman who was holding the sign was also holding a small rainbow flag.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture


Government rejects a pardon for computer genius Alan Turing



The government has given an initial rebuff to the campaign for a pardon for Alan Turing, the brilliant British 'father of the computer' whose career ended in tragedy after a gross indecency conviction at a time when gay sex was against the law.

Signatures are gathering on an e-petition for a pardon but the justice minister Lord McNally used the precedent argument to discourage the notion in the House of Lords.

Asked by the Liberal Democrat Lord Sharkey whether a pardon would be considered, to mark this year's centenary of Turing's birth which is the subject of international scientific celebrations, he told peers:

The question of granting a posthumous pardon to Mr Turing was considered by the previous Government in 2009.

As a result of the previous campaign, the then Prime Minister Gordon Brown issued an unequivocal posthumous apology to Mr Turing on behalf of the Government, describing his treatment as "horrifying" and "utterly unfair". Mr Brown said the country owed him a huge debt. This apology was also shown at the end of the Channel 4 documentary celebrating Mr Turing's life and achievements which was broadcast on 21 November 2011.

A posthumous pardon was not considered appropriate as Alan Turing was properly convicted of what at the time was a criminal offence. He would have known that his offence was against the law and that he would be prosecuted.

It is tragic that Alan Turing was convicted of an offence which now seems both cruel and absurd-particularly poignant given his outstanding contribution to the war effort. However, the law at the time required a prosecution and, as such, long-standing policy has been to accept that such convictions took place and, rather than trying to alter the historical context and to put right what cannot be put right, ensure instead that we never again return to those times.

I'm with bagkitty on this one: talk is cheap.



It's worse than cheap. The proper word escapes me just now. I was going to thank you for this update, CF, but now I'm not sure.


Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Indeed. I can only imagine what those prosecuted under that law who are still alive must think reading such monstrous rationalization.

Red Tory Tea Girl

I find it ironic that Turing was killed by the exact same medicine which probably saved my life. His was a death by chemically induced gender dysphoria.


Actually Turing died of cyanide poisoning, ruled at the time as a suicide.



Yes, his death was a tribute to his favourite movie, "Snow White." He coated an apple with cyanide.

Red Tory Tea Girl

Unionist, if you haven't by this point grasped that gender dysphoria's most fatal complication is self-harm (Though the stress does have cardiovascular and oncological knock-on effects) I don't know quite what to say other than that he likely would not have taken the cyanide if he hadn't been forcibly given the medroxyprogesterone.


I wasn't aware of that, RTTG. I was under the impression though that suicide among queer people was (and maybe still is) not an uncommon response to harassment, humiliation, bullying, etc. - and it must have been especially so in Turing's time when to be queer was to be a criminal. I don't know of any stats, though.




It was high doses of estrogen, not MPA, that were given to Alan Turing. And giving estrogen can itself cause depression (in addition to the criminal prosecution and humiliation).

Red Tory Tea Girl

Unionist, trans people who have yet to transition face an incidence of suicide about 25 times higher than the general population. Most of that goes away after treatment, though ostracism does cause a significant increase in the numbers over the general population.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

What Happens When We Turn the World's Most Famous Robot Test on Ourselves?

This weekend marks the centenary of Alan Turing's birth. Turing was one of the greatest computer scientist of all time. In a 1950 paper that outlined what has come to be known as the Turing Test he offered a way out of endless philosophical speculation about whether computers could ever be classed as 'intelligent.' He said that if human judges ask interview questions of a hidden computer and a hidden person and cannot tell the difference after five minutes, the computer should be considered intelligent. Nowadays, programmers compete yearly for the Loebner Prize, which is won by the computer that is most often mistaken for a human. 


But the Turing Test's application is no longer limited to questions of artificial intelligence: Social scientists too are getting in on the action and using the test in a completely new way -- to compare different human subjects and their ability to pass as members of groups to which they do not belong, such as religious and ethnic minorities or particular professional classes. With the Turing Test, sociologists can compare the extent to which subjects can understand people who are different from them in some way.

In the words of sociologists, what they're now studying is called "interactional expertise." The easiest way to understand what interactional expertise entails is to contrast it with a more common idea, contributory expertise. Contributory experts are the typical array of professionals (physicists, chemists, lawyers, economists, musicians etc.) who develop specialized knowledge and skill through formal education and long experience.

Interactional experts, by contrast, are not primary practitioners. They learn about a field primarily bytalking with the people who have acquired contributory expertise. The new claim is that linguistic socialization enables interactional experts to acquire enough tacit knowledge to see the world from a contributory expert's perspective. Their existence defies the cliché that understanding a person necessitates walking a mile in his or her shoes. Interactional experts can do more than talk the talk -- they can 'walk the talk' or, really, 'talk the walk' by offering authoritative technical judgments, making inside jokes, and raising devil's advocate questions that revolve around ideas normally known only to specialists.



He was an amazing person.

This Turing machine simulator is written in javascript.  The example binary addition script adds two 8-bit binary numbers correctly in only 135 steps. Cool!


These were articles collected last year by Nature in commemoration of Turing's 100th birthday:

[url=http://www.nature.com/news/specials/turing/index.html]Alan Turing at 100[/url]



In other Gordon news:

MPs have voted overwhelmingly in favour of the government's legislation for same-sex marriage in England and Wales.

At the conclusion of the Commons' first opportunity to debate the The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, MPs voted by 400 to 175, a majority of 225, in favour of the legislation.



On CBC The Current right now:

[url=http://www.cbc.ca/thecurrent/episode/2013/10/02/pardoning-alan-turing/]P... Alan Turing[/url]

Nearly 60 years after his death, there is a campaign to pardon Alan Turing, and the British parliament is poised to grant him a pardon this month. [...]

Peter Tatchell has pushed for a pardon for Alan Turing for many years. He is a Human Rights campaigner who has focused frequently, but not exclusively, on LGBT issues. He says the British Government should pardon Alan Turing because it's a good starting point for doing right by the 50,000 to 100,000 people who were charged under the law.


[url=http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/benedict-cumberbatch-calls-for-mass-pardon-... Cumberbatch calls for mass pardon of gay men in U.K.[/url]


bagkitty bagkitty's picture

Relatives of Alan Turing deliver petition demanding pardons for the 49,000+ men convicted under the same laws used against Turing.

GuardianArticle wrote:

Ms Barnes said: “I consider it to be fair and just that everybody who was convicted under the Gross Indecency law is given a pardon. It is illogical that my great uncle has been the only one to be pardoned when so many were convicted of the same crime. I feel sure that Alan Turing would have also wanted justice for everybody.”


“Men convicted of gross indecency were often considered to have brought huge shame on their families and many took their own lives. We still live with the legacy of this period today and it’s about time the country addressed this appalling part of our history.”

The petition garnered almost a half million signatures.


Bravo. Hope the government listens.

bagkitty bagkitty's picture

Across the board pardons to be issued in UK.

Of the 65,000 convicted under the laws, an estimated 15,000 are still alive. Here is the response from one of them.

GeorgeMontague wrote:

"To accept a pardon means you accept that you were guilty. I was not guilty of anything. I was only guilty of being in the wrong place at the wrong time," he told BBC Newsnight.

"I think it was wrong to give Alan Turing - one of the heroes of my life - a pardon.

"What was he guilty of? He was guilty of the same as what they called me guilty of - being born only able to fall in love with another man."

He added: "If I get an apology, I will not need a pardon."

He added that there "never should have been an offence of gross indecency".

"It didn't apply to heterosexuals. Heterosexuals could do what they liked, in the doorways, in passageways, the back of their car.

"It only applied to gay men. That's not right, surely?"