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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 6, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 01
Brits honor Alan Turing with commemorative stamp
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Brits honor Alan Turing with commemorative stamp

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Gay mathematician Alan Turing will be honored with a commemorative stamp to be issued in February, the British government announced January 2.

This year marks the centenary of his birth.

Turing played a key role in the team that cracked the German Enigma code during World War II, and he went on to help create the world's first computer.

Among information Turing's group was able to provide was advance warning of German air raids during the Battle of Britain, and operational details of German forces in North Africa and Sicily.

Although Winston Churchill later said the intelligence gleaned from cracking Enigma won the war for the Allies, and Turing was awarded an OBE (Order of the British Empire), he did not live long to enjoy his fame.

In 1952, he was convicted of 'gross indecency,' the legal term for Gay sex at a time when same-sex relations were still illegal in Britain. He was sentenced to chemical castration.

Two years later, Turing killed himself by taking cyanide.

According to contemporary accounts, Turing was discovered dead in his bed, with a half-eaten apple next to him. American biographer David Leavitt has suggested that Turing was re-enacting a scene from the 1937 Disney film Snow White, his favorite fairy tale.

In 2009, then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown issued a formal - if belated - apology to Turing on behalf of the British government, describing his treatment as 'horrifying' and 'utterly unfair.'

Brown said the country owed him a huge debt.

Turing is also the subject of an online petition calling for a posthumous pardon to quash his gross indecency conviction.

To mark the 100th anniversary of Turing's birth, the Turing Centenary Advisory Committee is coordinating the Alan Turing Year, a year-long program of events around the world honoring Turing's life and achievements.

Pink Triangle Trust Secretary George Broadhead described the honor of a commemorative stamp as 'richly deserved.' Pink Triangle Trust is an LGBT Humanist organization based in the U.K.

Broadhead went on to note, 'It is well known that Turing was Gay, but perhaps not so well known that he was a staunch atheist. There are many other famous Gay atheists past and present & but Turing is probably the most notable since his breaking of the Enigma code went such a long way in saving the U.K. from defeat in the last war.'

Until he was 18, Turing followed the Church of England, like most middle-class public school boys. Then his first love interest, Christopher Morcom, died from bovine tuberculosis contracted from drinking raw milk.

Turing's religious faith was shattered, and he became a lifelong atheist.

Turing is one of 10 people chosen for the Royal Mail's Britons of Distinction stamp series.

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