Friday, September 11, 2009

About Time

The British government has issued an apology for its treatment (and hounding to the point of suicide) of Alan Turing, rightly regarded as the father of computer science. His leadership of the codebreakers of Bletchley Park shortened WWII by at least 2 years--at one point, Churchill was reading field reports from Wermacht officers before Hitler was. He demonstrated that the Halting Problem was undecidable; that is, it has no general solution applying to all programs. When he was burglarized and blackmailed by an ex-lover, he reported it to the police...and found himself on trial for gross indecency, his security clearance revoked (and thus his career in cryptography destroyed), his career over, forced to undergo estrogen treatments, which were known to have numerous side effects, including depression. He committed suicide at age 41.

Turing, I suspect, would have been appalled at the idea of being any sort of martyr for gay rights. And yet his career and life were cut short, and the world deprived of at least 20 years of a brilliant researcher, because of homophobia.

It's nice to see the British government recognizing, finally, some of the injustice that it perpetrated and condoned for so long.

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