Friday, September 19, 2014


By D.E.Levine

When Alan Turing died in 1954 he was only 41.  Because he had been convicted of a crime in the United Kingdom and imprisoned, his story really wasn't told to many who would have been and currently are astonished by his thoughts and accomplishments.

Turing (played by Benedict Cumberbatch) was very simply a genius in mathematics and other areas.  As far back as the 1930s he was developing ideas and writing about a "universal machine" capable of doing things faster and in larger quantity than man could accomplish them.  He played a pivotal role in cracking the encryption code of the Enigma machine that the Nazis used for their messages, and in doing so help the Allies win World War II.  Without his efforts and those of his co-workers, we might not be enjoying the democratic freedoms for which America and the United Kingdom are noted.

Although he kept his homosexuality a secret, he was arrested in 1952 on charges of indecency, imprisoned and, in order to gain release, chemically castrated.

Unable to discuss his wartime work because of the British Secrecy Act, Turing was investigated because the police thought he was a Soviet spy, and when they saw he was a gay man they were committed to arresting and imprisoning him under the antiquated and homophobic judicial system.

Ironically, today we give knighthoods to gay men of significant achievement.  Turing, who died in 1952, wasn't pardoned until 2009.  While his initial machines were large and cumbersome, every time we use a desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone, we are utilizing ideas that were originally put forth by Alan Turing.