Years ago, when I was an undergraduate, I learned about the Turing Test and Turing Machine in a philosophy class. The name sounded vaguely familiar to me and I found out why. Having been something of a WII buff as a kid, I had read about the German Enigma code and the role of Turing in breaking it.
In addition to learning about Turing’s contributions to computer science and philosophy, I also learned of his tragic death. Turing was found guilty in 1952 of a “gross indecency” because of his homosexual relationship. His punishment was chemical castration and he committed suicide two years later. This story always stuck with me (in part because he killed himself by eating an apple laced with cyanide) and I have always regarded his fate as an example of a cruel injustice. After all, he made a vital contribution to Britain‘s war effort and literally helped to win the war. That this country would do something so terrible to him based on a moral prejudice is a matter of terrible irony. Naturally, folks today are drawing parallels between how Turing was treated and how homosexuals are being treated in the US military today. After all, it seems like madness to be so obsessed about homosexuality in the face of real dangers.
Recently a British computer scientist, John Graham-Cumming, has created a petition asking for an apology for Turing. This seems to be long overdue and a certainly hope that he succeeds in his efforts.