International Alan Turing Petition
We, the undersigned, petition the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom to apologize for the prosecution of Alan Turing that led to his untimely death. Alan Turing was the Father of Computer Science, a mathematician, logician, World War II codebreaker, and a victim of institutionalized prejudice. Turing is best know for his contributions to World War II code-breaking, particularly for cracking the infamous Enigma cipher. But Turing was also an important pioneer of computer science, defining a theoretical model of computers and formulating a test to determine whether a computer was sentient (the Turing Test). For his efforts, he was awarded the Order of the British Empire in 1945. After the war, Turing worked at the UK's National Physical Laboratory, designing the Automatic Computing Engine (ACE), the first computer to run a program stored in memory. Limited by the rudimentary technology of the time, Turing began work on mathematical biology, specifically morphogenesis (teasing out mathematical patterns in the development of plant structures). During the investigation of a break-in at his home in 1952, Turing admitted to police that he had had a homosexual relationship with the accused thief. Since homosexual acts were then illegal in the UK, both men were charged with gross indecency under Section 11 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act. Turing was given a choice between imprisonment or probation-- conditional on his chemical castration through injections of the hormone estrogen. His conviction led to the suspension of his security clearance, and ended his cryptographic consultancy for the UK Government Communications Headquarters. In 1954, despondent over his prosecution by the British government and the subsequent collapse of his personal life and career, Turing committed suicide at age 41 by eating a cyanide-laced apple. There is now global recognition of the profound contributions of Alan Turing to the Allied victory in World War II and to the early development of computers and information processing theory. Since 1966, the Association for Computing Machinery has annually awarded the Turing Award for technical contributions to the computing community-- the computing world's equivalent to the Nobel Prize. In addition, many major universities have memorialized Turing by naming buildings or erecting statues in his honor. English Heritage has formally recognized the historical importance of his birthplace and his former residence, Hollymeade, in Wilmslow, south Manchester. In 1999, Time Magazine named Turing one of the 100 most important people of the 20th century. The renowned British ethologist and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins recently spoke in support of an apology for Turing: "After the war, when Turing's role was no longer top-secret, he should have been knighted and feted as a saviour of his nation. Instead, this gentle, stammering, eccentric genius was destroyed, for a 'crime,' committed in private, which harmed nobody." It is now past time for the Prime Minister of the UK to formally apologize for the persecution of Turing.