The Current

Pardoning Alan Turing

He was the mathematician who cracked the code on the German Enigma machine, ending the Second World War but Alan Turing's final letters spoke of his punishment when he was sentenced under British law for being gay. There's a push to have him pardoned but critics say another 100,000 gay men also deserve to have their so-called crimes wiped away....
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He was the mathematician who cracked the code on the German Enigma machine, ending the Second World War but Alan Turing's final letters spoke of his punishment when he was sentenced under British law for being gay. There's a push to have him pardoned but critics say another 100,000 gay men also deserve to have their so-called crimes wiped away.



A nation that should have been a lot more grateful for the efforts of one of its greatest mathematicians and war heroes, tries to make it right with his memory. Britain plans a pardon for Alan Turing.

In the early 1940s, German U-Boats were the terror of the North Atlantic. From 1940 to 1945, they prowled the depths, sinking British and Canadian ships. They could co-ordinate their attacks thanks to a secret weapon.

alan-turing-250.jpg

A four-rotor Enigma machine, once used by the
crews of German U-boats in WWII to send
coded messages, which British WWII
code-breaker mathematician Alan Turing, was
instrumental in breaking. (AP/Alex Dorgan Ross)
* A brief history of the German Enigma
Machine - Courtesy of the BBC

The Enigma machine generated a code nearly impenetrable to outsiders. Nearly impenetrable, because it was eventually broken, and one of the men who help crack it may have turned the tide of the war. A British mathematician named Alan Turing not only helped defeat the Nazis, he laid the foundations for modern computing -- if you're listening on a smartphone or a tablet, you can thank him.

Unpublished and published articles by Alan Turing -- The Turing Digital Archives

But changing the world did not save him from a cruel law. Alan Turing was convicted of so-called homosexual offences ... and many believe his sentence helped drive him to suicide.

Nearly 60 years after his death, there is a campaign to pardon Alan Turing, and the British parliament is poised to grant him a pardon this month.

Watch video documentary on Alan Turing -- By James Grime

James Grime is a British mathematician with the Millennium Mathematics Project at the University of Cambridge. He gave a talk on Alan Turing earlier this week as part of the Brain Stem: Your Future Is Now Festival at the Perimeter Institute in Waterloo, Ontario.

 

Peter Tatchell has pushed for a pardon for Alan Turing for many years. He is a Human Rights campaigner who has focused frequently, but not exclusively, on LGBT issues. He says the British Government should pardon Alan Turing because it's a good starting point for doing right by the 50,000 to 100,000 people who were charged under the law. Peter Tatchell was in London, England.


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This segment was produced by The Current's Gord Westmacott.


Last Word - Sean Duffy and Piers Morgan

As we mentioned earlier, polls suggest many Americans are deeply annoyed with the shutdown of their federal government. A Washington Post poll suggests barely one in four approve of the way Republicans have handle budget negotiations.

On the CNN program, Piers Morgan Tonight, Republican Sean Duffy appeared to explain the pending shut down to viewers. At least, that's what he probably thought he was going to do. Instead, he got a tongue-lashing from the program's host who clearly thought Mr. Duffy should keep working.

For today's Last Word, we aired a condensed version of that interview with a little help from The Animals.

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