I had, of course, heard of Alan Turing. I knew he was brilliant, and had cracked Nazi codes during WWII, allowing the allies to access information that was critical to winning the war. But I was unaware of the tragic “back story,” until I read that there was a movement in England to issue a posthumous apology to him.
As Ed Brayton over at Dispatches from the Culture Wars http://scienceblogs.com/dispatches/2009/09/an_apology_to_alan_turing.php has reported:
Turing’s story is both remarkable and appalling. His work laid the foundation for the development of computers, a development as significant as the harnessing of fire or the invention of the telephone. But during WW2, he was also the man largely responsible for breaking the Nazi codes and allowing the good guys to win that war and prevent Hitler from taking over.
His reward for that? He was prosecuted for being a homosexual, stripped of his security clearance, and subjected to chemical castration. He killed himself two years later. One of the backers of this campaign said, “With Turing’s death, Britain and the world lost one of its finest intellectual minds. A government apology and posthumous pardon are long overdue.”
How sad. Another example of unreasoning hatred depriving mankind of a great resource. It reminds me of the Arabic-speaking gay soldiers discharged under “don’t ask, don’t tell,” even as the U.S. was desperate for recruits who could speak Arabic.
I will never understand people who hate or fear other people so much–people they don’t even know!–that they are willing to harm themselves in order to hurt “them.”