When I signed this petition I didn’t actually think that the Prime Minister would respond. As the petition’s originator said, it wasn’t really about that it was about getting recognition in the public’s eye about what Alan Turing did and the sad story of how he ended his life.
Some years ago I read his biography by Andrew Hodges this was at the height of my fascination with Enigma and how it was broken.
His contribution is worth recognising, the University of Manchester recently named a building after him, there is the Alan Turing Way that passes by the City of Manchester stadium and there is the fantastic statue in Whitworth Gardens, between the Gay Village and the North Campus of the University (which I and many others will always call UMIST).
Government response to petition ‘turing’ Inbox X
from 10 Downing Street
to e-petition signatories
date 11 September 2009 10:33
subject Government response to petition ‘turing’
hide details 10:33 (11 minutes ago)
Thank you for signing this petition. The Prime Minister has written a
response. Please read below.
Prime Minister: 2009 has been a year of deep reflection – a chance for
Britain, as a nation, to commemorate the profound debts we owe to those who
came before. A unique combination of anniversaries and events have stirred
in us that sense of pride and gratitude which characterise the British
experience. Earlier this year I stood with Presidents Sarkozy and Obama to
honour the service and the sacrifice of the heroes who stormed the beaches
of Normandy 65 years ago. And just last week, we marked the 70 years which
have passed since the British government declared its willingness to take
up arms against Fascism and declared the outbreak of World War Two. So I am
both pleased and proud that, thanks to a coalition of computer scientists,
historians and LGBT activists, we have this year a chance to mark and
celebrate another contribution to Britain’s fight against the darkness of
dictatorship; that of code-breaker Alan Turing.
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 World War Two could
well have been very different. He truly was one of those individuals we can
point to whose unique contribution helped to turn the tide of war. The debt
of gratitude he is owed makes it all the more horrifying, therefore, that
he was treated so inhumanely. 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.
Thousands of people have come together to demand justice for Alan Turing
and recognition of the appalling way he was treated. While 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. Alan and
the many thousands of other gay men who were convicted as he was convicted
under homophobic laws were treated terribly. Over the years millions more
lived in fear of conviction.
I am proud that those days are gone and that in the last 12 years this
government has done so much to make life fairer and more equal for our LGBT
community. This recognition of Alan’s status as one of Britain’s most
famous victims of homophobia is another step towards equality and long
But even more than that, Alan deserves recognition for his contribution to
humankind. For those of us born after 1945, into a Europe which is united,
democratic and at peace, it is hard to imagine that our continent was once
the theatre of mankind’s darkest hour. It is difficult to believe that in
living memory, people could become so consumed by hate – by
anti-Semitism, by homophobia, by xenophobia and other murderous prejudices
– that the gas chambers and crematoria became a piece of the European
landscape as surely as the galleries and universities and concert halls
which had marked out the European civilisation for hundreds of years. It is
thanks to men and women who were totally committed to fighting fascism,
people like Alan Turing, that the horrors of the Holocaust and of total war
are part of Europe’s history and not Europe’s present.
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.
If you would like to help preserve Alan Turing’s memory for future
generations, please donate here: http://www.bletchleypark.org.uk/
Petition information – http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/turing/