[Marxism] Alan Turing
rfidler_8 at sympatico.ca
Sat Dec 28 18:17:55 MST 2013
Barry Sheppard has authored this fine article for the Solidarity Webzine. --
On Christmas Eve the Queen of England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland,
and the Commonwealth deigned to pardon one of the twentieth century's most
important mathematicians of the crime of homosexuality.
In 1952 Alan Turing was tried and convicted of engaging in sex with other
men. He was then presented with the choice of prison or chemical castration.
He chose the latter, estrogen treatments that caused him to grow breasts,
made him impotent, and sent him into depression. He was fired from his job
with the British government. Washington barred him from entering the United
States, which he had often visited to work with mathematicians in Bell Labs.
In 1954 he ate an apple laced with cyanide, which was ruled a suicide.
He was 41 years old.
In 1936 Turing developed a model of the "universal computing machine," a
concept which lies behind all computers. Other subsequent mathematical
models of computers have been found to be equivalent to what has become
known as the "Turing machine."
Besides this accomplishment, Turing broke the German enigma code in the
Second World War, and proved two important mathematical theorems, and other
The law under which Turing was convicted was repealed in 1967. But in the
years since, attempts to have him pardoned were repeatedly rebuffed. The
most recent was last year, 50 years after his conviction, when Parliament
voted down a motion to pardon him.
The reasoning of the majority of this most august body was that since the
law was the law in 1952, and Turing had knowingly violated it, he was a
lawbreaker and lawbreakers cannot be pardoned. This decision provoked an
immediate response, when 10,000 signed a petition that Turing be put on the
new 10-pound note.
There was international outrage in addition. All this led to the Queen's
pardon this year. The wording of the pardon itself is disgusting: "Now Know
Ye: that We, in consideration of circumstances humbly represented unto Us,
are Graciously pleased to extend Our Grace and Mercy unto the said Alan
Mathison Turing and to grant him Our Free Pardon posthumously in respect of
The "We" and "Us" and "Our" refer to the Queen's double personhood, as both
the physical person Elizabeth II and as the embodiment of the "body
politic," which is immutable and "utterly void of Infancy and Old Age." It's
something like the Pope's "We," which refers to him and God.
But Turning does not need forgiving because he did nothing wrong. If any
entity requires being extended Grace and Mercy it is the UK government for
its crime against Turing, which arguably directly led to his death.
Turing was pardoned because of his fame and accomplishments. But some 75,000
men were convicted under the same law as Turing, of whom 26,000 are still
alive. Turing's pardon should be extended to the 75,000, and would improve
the lives of the 26,000 today.
A final thought -- those reading this are doing so on a "Turing machine."
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