WWII codebreaker Alan Turing gets royal pardon for gay conviction

Mon Dec 23, 2013 7:01pm EST
 
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Belinda Goldsmith

LONDON (Reuters) - Mathematician Alan Turing, who helped Britain win World War Two by cracking Nazi Germany's "unbreakable" Enigma code, was granted a rare royal pardon on Tuesday for a criminal conviction for homosexuality that led to his suicide.

Turing's electromechanical machine, a forerunner of modern computers, unraveled the code used by German U-boats in the Atlantic. His work at Bletchley Park, Britain's wartime codebreaking centre, was credited with shortening the war.

However, he was stripped of his job and chemically castrated with injections of female hormones after being convicted of gross indecency in 1952 for having sex with a man. Homosexual sex was illegal in Britain until 1967.

Turing killed himself in 1954, aged 41, with cyanide.

Justice Minister Chris Grayling said the pardon from Queen Elizabeth would come into effect immediately and was a fitting tribute to "an exceptional man with a brilliant mind".

"His brilliance was put into practice at Bletchley Park during the Second World War where he was pivotal to breaking the 'Enigma' code, helping to end the war and save thousands of lives," Grayling said in a statement.

"His later life was overshadowed by his conviction for homosexual activity, a sentence we would now consider unjust and discriminatory and which has now been repealed," he said.

Only four royal pardons had been granted since the end of World War Two, a spokeswoman for Grayling said.   Continued...