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Saturday, June 23, 2012

Turing Centenary

You might find today's Google logo a little cryptic, at least until you mouse over it:


It's the 100th birthday of Alan Turing. He saved Great Britain and won WWII for the Allies through his codebreaking work at Bletchley Park. He was a vastly important computing pioneer; do a web search on Turing test, or just check out the Wikipedia entry for Turing. That computer you're reading this on might not exist without his work.

Alan Turing was driven to his death by the British legal system. In the 1950s, homosexuality was still illegal there. Turing was arrested and sentenced to a "cure" of hormonal treatment. He committed suicide at the age of 42. Who knows what he might have done if he'd lived out his natural lifespan? Bigotry kills, in more ways than one.


7 comments:

Unknown said...

you managed to spell his name two different ways in the same paragraph.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Typo fixed in two places; thanks!

Axel Feldheim said...

So glad I'm not the only one who is pleased by all the fuss over Alan Turing's 100th birthday. I like to think of him as the 1st computer nerd! The BBC has been running a bunch of great stories & radio shows about him this week, including a re-interpretation of his death as accidental rather than a suicide.

The English Physician said...

In no way would I defend legislation making homosexuality criminal, but you rush to judgement when you blame British law for his death.
Turing died 2 years after his conviction, from cyanide poisoning. In small doses cyanide is sedative, and did have some therapeutic use. There is a good chance Turing was experimenting with cyanide, and his death was accidental.

The English Physician said...

Criminalising homosexuality is absurd and indefensible, but you rush to judgement in blaming British law for Turing's death.
Cyanide in small doses is psychotropic - mainly sedative. At one time it had some therapeutic use.
Accident is at least as likely as suicide in Turing's case. He may well have tried cyanide, and took too much.

Lisa Hirsch said...

English Physician - the email address in your Google profile doesn't work. I posted both your comments even though they're nearly identical. I assume you didn't realize I have comments on moderation.

Here's a BBC News article about the issues surrounding Turing's death. Looks ambiguous to me; might have been suicide, might have been an accident, might have been a suicide staged to look accidental.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Okay, for some reason, I can't leave a live link in comments at the moment. Here's the URL, which you'll have to copy & paste, I assume:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-18561092