A University of Leeds academic is supporting an e-petition calling on the Government to posthumously pardon the mathematician and computer pioneer Alan Turing for his conviction of gross indecency.
Turing worked at Bletchley Park during the Second World War to crack German ciphers and is often cited as the father of computer science and artificial intelligence.
2012 has been designated The Alan Turing Year. "A pardon from the Government in the centenary year of Turing's birth would be warmly welcomed by his family, friends, colleagues and those in the scientific community who have benefitted from the foundations he laid," says Professor Barry Cooper, who chairs the Turing Centenary Advisory Committee and is based in the School of Mathematics at the University of Leeds.
The petition was created following a Channel 4 documentary into the tormented life of Turing and has already received 2,750 signatories in fewer than ten days. It seeks a pardon from the government for Turing in the hope that it will act as an apology to other homosexual men who were convicted under these now defunct laws.
During his time at Bletchley Park Turing devised a number of techniques for breaking German ciphers, including the method of the bombe, an electromechanical machine that could find settings for the Enigma machine. After the war he worked at the National Physical Laboratory, where he created one of the first designs for a stored-program computer, the ACE.
"The foundations he laid in computer science and mathematical logic are relatively unknown to the wider public, despite the prevalence of everyday devices based on his work. We hope that this petition and the year-long celebrations planned in 2012 will raise awareness and cement his place as one of the great scientists," adds Cooper.
In 1948, Turing joined the Computing Laboratory at the University of Manchester and aided in the development of the 'Manchester Computers' which set the pace for computing developments of the next 30 years.
Turing was convicted of 'gross indecency' in 1952. At that time, homosexual acts were illegal in the UK and many were imprisoned for this crime. Alan Turing was punished with a hormonal treatment designed to reduce libido.
In June 1954 Turing was found dead at his home. An inquest determined he had committed suicide by cyanide poisoning.
In 2009 the then Prime Minister Gordon Brown made a public apology for the way Turing and others were prosecuted based on their sexuality.
The e-petition can be found at https://submissions.epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/23526
More information about the 2012 Alan Turing Year can be found here: http://www.turingcentenary.eu/
Image credit: Tom Yates
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