Gay Scientist Is Pardoned for Gross Indecency

Alan Turing

A gay scientist, Alan Mathison Turing, has been pardoned for gross indecency posthumously. Turing, a scientist in the Fellow of the Royal Society, was convicted in 1952 due to a consensual sexual relationship with another man. Turing was known for cracking the German code, “Enigma” during World War II. He was also a computer scientist. The law that was used against Turing was enacted in 1885.

Turing was born in Paddington, London in 1912.  He studied at Cambridge and received first class honors in mathematics when he graduated in 1935.  He wrote papers about computer systems, and explained that any computer could do mathematical equations through algorithms.

Turing was credited with helping end World War II, since the code he broke helped the Allies to know the Nazi’s locations and plans. Many historians believe the history of the world would have turned out differently had Turing not decoded “Enigma.”

He had a long-term relationship with another man, Arnold Murray, and during an investigation into a burglary of their apartment, Turing admitted to police officers that they lived together in a gay relationship.  He and Murray were arrested immediately.

Queen Elizabeth II gave the royal pardon for Turing on Christmas Eve. The “royal prerogative of mercy,” the formal title for a King or Queen’s pardon, is one of the central affordances of English royalty.

During the old law’s reign, up to 26,000 gay citizens were convicted of “gross indecency.” Many of those people are still alive and have not received a pardon as of today.

Turing, once convicted, was given the choice of imprisonment or chemical castration and monitoring, using estrogen to curb his sexual impulses. After he chose estrogen over prison,Turing suffered with the effects of the hormonal treatments, with breast growth and finally, impotence. Depression followed, and Turing ended his life in 1954 by eating a cyanide-laced apple.

The gay scientist who helped save lives and the war effort, was pardoned for gross indecency as a symbolic apology by those who hold him as a national treasure. There are many more that should be given the same reprieve.

British human rights campaigner, Peter Tatchell, said that thousands of Britons were convicted under the same anti-gay legislation yet aren’t in line for the pardon given to Turing. “Everyone should be equal under the law,” he said. “It’s wrong to give famous privileged pardons.”

The issue of whether Turing truly killed himself with the poison apple, or whether he was killed by state security officers has been in question.  Some witnesses said that Turing was doing well, and had positive plans for the future. The apple was never tested for poison and that failing has started a bit of a conspiracy theory around Turing’s death. In England an inquest is held with family and witnesses. Those who were present stated that the inquest was unsatisfactory and did not go far enough to prove his suicide.

During his work with the British government,Turing was brought under the spotlight. There was concern that Turing, who had many State secrets under his belt, could be blackmailed for his homosexual preference. His security clearance was withdrawn and he was barred from further work at the spy agency, Government Communications Headquarters, “GCHQ.” The question of whether Turing was pressured or kicked around by state security has never been proven or disproven.

Alan Mathison Turing, (1912-1954), was a gay scientist, who today stands pardoned by Britain’s royal government for “gross indecency.” The symbol has not gone deep enough for some. Will there be more pardons to come?

By Lisa M Pickering

The Atlantic
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