World War Two code breaker Alan Turing set to be pardoned for his gay conviction
Alan Turing, the World War Two code breaker who later killed himself after receiving a criminal conviction for his homosexuality, looks set to be pardoned.
By Christopher Hope, Senior Political Correspondent
5:22PM BST 19 Jul
2013 in The Telegraph / http://www.telegraph.co.uk/history/world-war-two/10191547/World-War-Two-code-breaker-Alan-Turing-set-to-be-pardoned-for-his-gay-conviction.html
The Government said it would not stand in the way of legislation to offer a full Parliamentary pardon for Turing, who helped Britain to win the Second World War as a skilled code-breaker.
Until now, the Government has resisted using the Royal Prerogative to pardon Turing for his conviction for gross indecency in 1952 because he was a homosexual.
Ministers had argued that because Turing was convicted of what was at the time a criminal offence, it is not possible to hand him a full posthumous pardon.
For years, campaigners have called on ministers to reverse the decision because of the part he played in winning the war after he invented the Colossus machine at Bletchley Park to crack the codes of German U-boats in the Atlantic.
Despite his work, he was convicted of gross indecency and as his punishment he chose chemical castration over imprisonment. Two years later he committed suicide at the age of 41.
In 2009 the then prime minister, Gordon Brown, made a posthumous apology to Turing, describing his treatment as "appalling", but he was not officially pardoned.
Last December Prof Stephen Hawking and other leading scientists wrote to The Daily Telegraph urging a pardon for Turing, whose work at Bletchley has been credited for hastening the end of the Second World War.
Speaking in the House of Lords on Friday, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, a whip, said the Government would not stand in the way of a Bill brought by Liberal Democrat peer Lord Sharkey, which offers Turing a full posthumous parliamentary pardon.
Speaking in the House of Lords shortly before the Alan Turing (Statutory Pardon) Bill received an unopposed second reading, Lord Ahmad said: “Alan Turing himself believed that homosexual activity would be made legal by a Royal Commission.
“In fact, appropriately, it was Parliament which decriminalised the activity for which he was convicted.
“The Government therefore is very aware of the cause to pardon Turing given his outstanding achievement and therefore has great sympathy with the objective of the Bill.
“That is why the Government believes it is right that Parliament should be free to respond to this Bill in whatever way its conscience dictates, in whatever way Parliament so wills."
He added: “If nobody tables an amendment to this Bill, the supporters can be assured that this Bill will make speedy progress and passage to the House of Commons.
“If there are no amendments tabled for committee there doesn't need to be any report stage so the Government can table third reading by the end of October.
“This will take place on the floor of the House. If no amendments are tabled for third reading it is formal and the Bill immediately goes to the Commons."
Lord Sharkey said earlier that if the Government was not going to act, Parliament should step in to ensure Turing's family received the pardon they were owed.
The peer, who was taught mathematics at university by Turing’s close friend Robin Gandy, said it was widely accepted by experts that the code-breaker's work had shortened the war by two years, saving possibly hundreds of thousands of lives.
Lord Sharkey said: "The Government knows that Turing was a hero and a very great man. They acknowledge that he was cruelly treated. They must have seen the esteem in which he is held here and around the world.
“It is not too late for the Government to pardon Alan Turing. It is not too late for the Government to grant a disregard for all those gay men convicted under the dreadful (legislation).
“I hope the Government is thinking very hard about doing both of those things. But while they are thinking, Parliament can act.”
Baroness Trumpington said she supported the call for the Government to go further than the apology issued by former prime minister Gordon Brown in 2009.
She said that when she worked at Bletchley Park during the war, there were strict rules which forbid any staff from going in to other listening stations they were not assigned to without receiving the permission of a supervising officer to deliver a message.
This meant she only ever met Alan Turing once, the peer said, adding the Government should now erect a statue of the code-breaker.
The Conservative peer said: “This is not about legal issues but recognising the debt this country owes to Alan Turing.”
She said Britain would have starved if Turing had not cracked the codes which revealed the locations of German U-boats operating in the Atlantic, which had been able to intercept convoys of merchant ships bringing supplies from the United States.
Baroness Trumpington added: “Although I knew that (Turing) invented Colossus, which turned the war around in our favour, I cannot claim that I knew him. But I am certain that but for his work, we would have lost the war through starvation.”
Shadow cabinet office spokeswoman Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town said it was ironic that the man responsible for helping to bring down Hitler, who prosecuted and gassed homosexuals, was himself then prosecuted by the British government.
Taking her place at the Despatch Box, she said: “The irony of Alan Turing being prosecuted for his sexuality when he helped fight Hitler, who prosecuted and gassed homosexuals, was surely not lost on him.
“And how he might have smiled to find us legalising same sex marriage, and seeking to pardon him in the same week and hopefully both to be affected by 2014 - 40 years after his untimely death.”
Benedict Cumberbatch in line to play Alan Turing in The Imitation Game
Sherlock star in talks to play tragic wartime codebreaker in Hollywood biopic
guardian.co.uk, Monday 4 February 2013 11.57 GMT / http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2013/feb/04/benedict-cumberbatch-alan-turing
Benedict Cumberbatch is in talks to play the British mathematician and codebreaker Alan Turing in forthcoming biopic The Imitation Game, reports Deadline.
The Sherlock star may step into the shoes of Leonardo DiCaprio, who was frontrunner to play Turing when the film was announced in 2011. The project has the ring of Oscar bait: it is based on a script by first-time screenwriter Graham Moore, which was bought by Warner Bros for a seven-figure sum after making 2011's Black List of the most popular unfilmed screenplays in Hollywood.
Turing was a wartime hero credited with cracking the German Enigma code at Britain's Bletchley Park codebreaking centre, but his life was destroyed by the period's anti-homosexuality laws. Police arrested Turing in 1952 after learning of his sexual relationship with a young Manchester man. He made no denial or defence during his trial and, rather than go to prison, accepted injections of synthetic oestrogen intended to neutralise his libido.
Turing continued to work part-time for GCHQ, the postwar successor to Bletchley Park, but his mental health is said to have suffered, and he was shut out of Britain's security operations as the country's alliance with the US increased over fears of cold war spying. He was found dead by his cleaner in 1954. The coroner's verdict was suicide, though Turing's mother believed he had accidentally ingested cyanide after a chemistry experiment. In 2009 Gordon Brown made a public apology on behalf of the British government for the way Turing was treated.
Cumberbatch is flying high in Hollywood after securing roles as the main villain in Star Trek into Darkness and as the dragon Smaug in Peter Jackson's Hobbit trilogy. He will also play Julian Assange in The Fifth Estate, a film about the WikiLeaks founder's early struggles, and is set for roles in Steve McQueen's highly anticipated Twelve Years a Slave and the film adaptation of Tracy Letts's Pulitzer prize-winning play August: Osage County.
Turing was excised entirely from the best-known recent film about Bletchley Park, 2001's Enigma. Michael Apted's film cast Dougray Scott as Tom Jericho, a character who seemed to have all the qualities of Turing, bar one vital fact: he was not homosexual and romances Kate Winslet's character.
Alan Mathison Turing, OBE, FRS ( 23 June 1912 – 7 June 1954), was a British mathematician, logician, cryptanalyst, and computer scientist. He was highly influential in the development of computer science, giving a formalisation of the concepts of "algorithm" and "computation" with the Turing machine, which can be considered a model of a general purpose computer. Turing is widely considered to be the father of computer science and artificial intelligence.
During World War II, Turing worked for the Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS) at Bletchley Park, Britain's codebreaking centre. For a time he was head of Hut 8, the section responsible for German naval cryptanalysis. He 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 designed the ACE, one of the first designs for a stored-program computer. In 1948 Turing joined Max Newman's Computing Laboratory at Manchester University, where he assisted in the development of the Manchester computers and became interested in mathematical biology. He wrote a paper on the chemical basis of morphogenesis, and predicted oscillating chemical reactions such as the Belousov–Zhabotinsky reaction, which were first observed in the 1960s.
Turing's homosexuality resulted in a criminal prosecution in 1952, when homosexual acts were still illegal in the United Kingdom. He accepted treatment with female hormones (chemical castration) as an alternative to prison. Turing died in 1954, just over two weeks before his 42nd birthday, from cyanide poisoning. An inquest determined that his death was suicide; his mother and some others believed his death was accidental. On 10 September 2009, following an Internet campaign, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown made an official public apology on behalf of the British government for "the appalling way he was treated." As of May
2012, a private member's
bill was put before the House of Lords to grant Turing a statutory pardon.As of
July 2013, it looks likely to succeed, having gained government support.
During the Second World War, Turing was a leading participant in the breaking of German ciphers at Bletchley Park. The historian and wartime codebreaker Asa Briggs has said:
You needed exceptional talent, you needed genius at Bletchley and Turing's was that genius.
From September 1938, Turing had been working part-time with the Government Code and Cypher School (GCCS), the British code breaking organisation. He concentrated on cryptanalysis of the Enigma, with Dilly Knox, a senior GCCS codebreaker. Soon after the July 1939 Warsaw meeting at which the Polish Cipher Bureau had provided the British and French with the details of the wiring of Enigma rotors and their method of decrypting Enigma messages, Turing and Knox started to work on a less fragile approach to the problem. The Polish method relied on an insecure indicator procedure that the Germans were likely to change, which they did in May 1940. Turing's approach was more general, using crib-based decryption for which he produced the functional specification of the bombe (an improvement of the Polish Bomba).
On 4 September 1939, the day after the UK declared war on Germany, Turing reported to Bletchley Park, the wartime station of GCCS. Specifying the bombe was the first of five major cryptanalytical advances that Turing made during the war. The others were: deducing the indicator procedure used by the German navy; developing a statistical procedure for making much more efficient use of the bombes dubbed Banburismus; developing a procedure for working out the cam settings of the wheels of the Lorenz SZ 40/42 (Tunny) dubbed Turingery and, towards the end of the war, the development of a portable secure voice scrambler at Hanslope Park that was codenamed Delilah.
By using statistical techniques to optimise the trial of different possibilities in the code breaking process, Turing made an innovative contribution to the subject. He wrote two papers discussing mathematical approaches which were entitled Report on the applications of probability to cryptography and Paper on statistics of repetitions, which were of such value to GCCS and its successor GCHQ, that they were not released to the UK National Archives until April 2012, shortly before the centenary of his birth. A GCHQ mathematician said at the time that the fact that the contents had been restricted for some 70 years demonstrated their importance.
Turing had something of a reputation for eccentricity at Bletchley Park. He was known to his colleagues as 'Prof' and his treatise on Enigma was known as 'The Prof's Book'. Jack Good, a cryptanalyst who worked with him, is quoted by Ronald Lewin as having said of Turing:
in the first week of June each year he would get a bad attack of hay fever, and he would cycle to the office wearing a service gas mask to keep the pollen off. His bicycle had a fault: the chain would come off at regular intervals. Instead of having it mended he would count the number of times the pedals went round and would get off the bicycle in time to adjust the chain by hand. Another of his eccentricities is that he chained his mug to the radiator pipes to prevent it being stolen.
While working at Bletchley, Turing, a talented long-distance runner, occasionally ran the
miles ( 64
km) to London when he was needed for high-level
meetings, and he was capable of world-class marathon standards.
In 1945, Turing was awarded the OBE by King George VI for his wartime services, but his work remained secret for many years.
Within weeks of arriving at Bletchley Park, Turing had specified an electromechanical machine that could help break Enigma more effectively than the Polish bomba kryptologiczna, from which its name was derived. The bombe, with an enhancement suggested by mathematician Gordon Welchman, became one of the primary tools, and the major automated one, used to attack Enigma-enciphered messages.
Jack Good opined:
Turing's most important contribution, I think, was of part of the design of the bombe, the cryptanalytic machine. He had the idea that you could use, in effect, a theorem in logic which sounds to the untrained ear rather absurd; namely that from a contradiction, you can deduce everything.
The bombe searched for possible correct settings used for an Enigma message (i.e. rotor order, rotor settings and plugboard settings), using a suitable crib: a fragment of probable plaintext. For each possible setting of the rotors (which had of the order of 1019 states, or 1022 for the four-rotor U-boat variant), the bombe performed a chain of logical deductions based on the crib, implemented electrically. The bombe detected when a contradiction had occurred, and ruled out that setting, moving on to the next. Most of the possible settings would cause contradictions and be discarded, leaving only a few to be investigated in detail. The first bombe was installed on 18 March 1940.
By the Autumn of 1941, Turing and his fellow cryptanalysts Gordon Welchman, Hugh Alexander, and Stuart Milner-Barry were frustrated. Building on the brilliant work of the Poles, they had set up a good working system for decrypting Enigma signals but they only had a few people and a few bombes so they did not have time to translate all the signals. In the summer they had had considerable success and shipping losses had fallen to under 100,000 tons a month but they were still on a knife-edge. They badly needed more resources to keep abreast of German adjustments. They had tried to get more people and fund more bombes through the proper channels but they were getting nowhere. Finally, breaking all the rules, on 28 October they wrote directly to Churchill spelling out their difficulties. They emphasised how small their need was compared with the vast expenditure of men and money by the forces and compared with the level of assistance they could offer to the forces.
The effect was electric. Churchill wrote a memo to General Ismay which read: "ACTION THIS DAY. Make sure they have all they want on extreme priority and report to me that this has been done." On 18 November the chief of the secret service reported that every possible measure was being taken. More than two hundred bombes were in operation by the end of the war.
Conviction for indecency
In January 1952, Turing started a relationship with a 19-year-old unemployed man, Arnold Murray, whom he had met outside the Regal Cinema when walking down Manchester's Oxford Road just before Christmas and had invited to lunch. On 23 January Turing's house was burgled. Murray told Turing that the burglar was an acquaintance of his, and Turing reported the crime to the police. During the investigation he acknowledged a sexual relationship with Murray. Homosexual acts were illegal in the United Kingdom at that time, and both were charged with gross indecency under Section 11 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885. Initial committal proceedings for the trial occurred on 27 February, where Turing's solicitor "reserved his defence". Later, convinced by the advice of his brother and other lawyers, Turing entered a plea of "guilty", in spite of the fact that he felt no remorse or guilt for having committed criminal acts of homosexuality. The case, Regina v. Turing and Murray, was brought to trial on 31 March 1952,where Turing was convicted, and given a choice between imprisonment or probation conditional on his agreement to undergo hormonal treatment designed to reduce libido. He accepted the option of treatment via injections of stilboestrol, a synthetic oestrogen; this treatment was continued for the course of one year. The treatment rendered Turing impotent and caused gynecomastia, fulfilling in the literal sense, Turing's prediction that "no doubt I shall emerge from it all a different man, but quite who I've not found out". Murray was given a conditional discharge.
Turing's conviction led to the removal of his security clearance, and barred him from continuing with his cryptographic consultancy for the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the British signals intelligence agency that had evolved from GCCS in 1946. His passport was never revoked; although he was denied entry into the United States after his 1952 conviction, Turing was free to visit other European countries, although this was viewed by some as a security risk. At the time, there was acute public anxiety about homosexual entrapment of spies by Soviet agents, because of the recent exposure of the first two members of the Cambridge Five, Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean, as KGB double agents. Turing was never accused of espionage but, in common with all who had worked at Bletchley Park, was prevented from discussing his war work by the Official Secrets Act.
On 8 June 1954, Turing's cleaner found him dead. He had died the previous day. A post-mortem examination established that the cause of death was cyanide poisoning. When his body was discovered, an apple lay half-eaten beside his bed, and although the apple was not tested for cyanide, it was speculated that this was the means by which a fatal dose was consumed. This suspicion was strengthened when his fascination with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was revealed, especially the transformation of the Queen into the Witch and the ambiguity of the poisoned apple. An inquest determined that he had committed suicide, and he was cremated at Woking Crematorium on 12 June 1954. Turing's ashes were scattered there, just as his father's had been.
Hodges and David Leavitt have suggested that Turing was re-enacting a scene from the 1937 Walt Disney film Snow White, his favourite fairy tale, both noting that (in Leavitt's words) he took "an especially keen pleasure in the scene where the Wicked Queen immerses her apple in the poisonous brew". This interpretation was supported in an article in The Guardian written by Turing's friend, the author Alan Garner, in 2011.Professor Jack Copeland (philosophy) has questioned various aspects of the coroner's historical verdict, suggesting the alternative explanation of the accidental inhalation of cyanide fumes from an apparatus for gold electroplating spoons, using potassium cyanide to dissolve the gold, which Turing had set up in his tiny spare room. Copeland notes that the autopsy findings were more consistent with inhalation than with ingestion of the poison. Turing also habitually ate an apple before bed, and it was not unusual for it to be discarded half-eaten. In addition, Turing had reportedly borne his legal setbacks and hormone treatment (which had been discontinued a year previously) "with good humour" and had shown no sign of despondency prior to his death, in fact, setting down a list of tasks he intended to complete upon return to his office after the holiday weekend. At the time, Turing's mother believed that the ingestion was accidental, caused by her son's careless storage of laboratory chemicals. Biographer Andrew Hodges suggests that Turing may have arranged the cyanide experiment deliberately, to give his mother some plausible deniability
A complete and working replica of a bombe at the National Codes Centre at Bletchley Park