61 Years Later, Alan Turing Finally Got a Royal Pardon

Illustration for article titled 61 Years Later, Alan Turing Finally Got a Royal Pardon

Alan Turing, father of modern computer science, destroyer of Nazi encoding, has finally been posthumously pardoned, 61 years after he was convicted for being who he was. About damn time.


It's been a long time coming; 59 years have passed since Turing's suicide by cyanide-laced apple in the face of force chemical castration after his conviction of "gross indecency" in 1952. Back in 2009, Prime Minister Gordon Brown apologized about the whole thing, but the pardon never followed. Now, it's finally here, despite the face that current Prime Minister David Cameron's administration denied it last year. Apparently having changed his mind, Cameron said the following in a statement:

His action saved countless lives. He also left a remarkable national legacy through his substantial scientific achievements, often being referred to as the 'father of modern computing.'

All true! But you you can't help but think of how much better off everyone (especially Alan Turing) might have been if things played out with a little more civility, and the fact that it's been over half a century is more than a little absurd. But better late than never, even if it is embarrassingly late. [The New York Times]



I have to phrase this very carefully. He was convicted for something that, at the time, was an offense. He was found guilty and a particularly horrible punishment was to be carried out, however it was the accepted punishment at that time for what was perceived then as a crime.

Should we go back and rewrite history for every punishment that was handed out, but was in accordance with the laws of that time? Should we pardon every convict that was shipped off to Australia, every person that was thrown in prison under laws that are no longer in force? Or should we just learn from our mistakes and make sure that this kind of atrocity never happens again? What does the act of pardoning him achieve? If he lived today he would have not committed a crime, but we are not responsible for something that happened in the past, we are only responsible for ensuring it never happens again.