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Britain Apologizes After Turing Petition

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Alan Turing

Did Alan Turing's 1936 paper 'On Computable Numbers' influence the early history of computer building?

British prime minister Gordon Brown apologized for the way the government treated Alan Mathison Turing after convicting the computer pioneer of gross indecency for admitting he had a sexual relationship with a man.

"While Mr. Turing was dealt with under the law of the time and we can't put the clock back, his treatment was of course utterly unfair and I am pleased to have the chance to say how deeply sorry I and we all are for what happened to him," Brown says. "So on behalf of the British government, and all those who live freely thanks to Alan's work, I am very proud to say: We're sorry, you deserved so much better."

Computer scientist John Graham-Cumming came up with the idea for a posthumous government apology, and the campaign was backed by author Ian McEwan, scientist Richard Dawkins, and gay-rights activist Peter Tatchell. Thousands signed a petition on the government's Web site. Turing received experimental chemical castration as a "treatment," and the removal of his security privileges meant he could no longer work for the U.K. Government Communications Headquarters. The mathematician killed himself two years after his prosecution in 1952.

Turing is known for his efforts to crack messages enciphered with the German Enigma machines during World War II, and he also helped lay the foundation for the fields of artificial intelligence and computing. The A.M. Turing Award, ACM's most prestigious technical award, is named after him and is often referred to as the Nobel Prize of computing.

From BBC News
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