Alan Turing was a lonely, awkward boy. His only friend in school died of tuberculosis in 1928. This awful event had a formative impact on the life of this young man who went on to become a brilliant mathematician and code breaker at Bletchley Park from 1939-45. Cracking the Enigma code significantly shortened World War 2 and potentially altered its outcome. He was the first man to indicate how thinking machines might be built. He later came to be known as the father of modern computing. He was one of the most influential men of his time and we owe our freedom to him. Steve Jobs wanted his company logo of the bitten apple to be associated with Turing’s love of apples.
An accomplished runner, he also had a great interest in the paranormal. And there is Turing the composer, responsible for some of the earliest computer music recorded by the BBC in Manchester. He is described as “shy, gay, witty, grumpy, courageous, unassuming and wildly successful genius”.
In 1952, he was arrested under a homophobic law for ‘gross indecency’. The chemical castration that Turing underwent thereafter was highly unjust and disgusting. Tens of thousands of less famous men were similarly prosecuted between 1885 and 1967.
He was found by his cleaner when she came in on 8 June 1954. He had died the day before of cyanide poisoning, a half-eaten apple beside his bed. His mother believed he had accidentally ingested cyanide from his fingers after an amateur chemistry experiment, but it is more credible that he had successfully contrived his death to allow her alone to believe this. The coroner’s verdict was suicide.
These countries still punish homosexual acts by death: Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Qatar, Iran, Somalia, Yemen, Sudan, Mauritania and UAE.
World gay rights map: