Reaction to Turing’s Pardon

09a-young-turing-portraitThe Queen’s posthumous pardon of Alan Turing has received a strong response from around the world. Here’s a summary of reaction to the pardon from politicians, pundits, and Turing experts.

British Justice Minister Chris Grayling requested the pardon from Queen Elizabeth II. He said: “Dr Alan Turing was an exceptional man with a brilliant mind…His later life was overshadowed by his conviction for homosexual activity, a sentence we would now consider unjust and discriminatory and which has now been repealed. Dr Turing deserves to be remembered and recognised for his fantastic contribution to the war effort and his legacy to science. A pardon from the Queen is a fitting tribute to an exceptional man.”

David CameronBritish Prime Minister David Cameron said, “His action saved countless lives. He also left a remarkable national legacy through his substantial scientific achievements, often being referred to as the ‘father of modern computing.’”

Liberal Democrat peer Lord Sharkey, the man who introduced the Turing pardon bill in the House of Lords, said: “This has demonstrated wisdom and compassion. It has recognised a very great British hero and made some amends for the cruelty and injustice with which Turing was treated. It’s a wonderful thing, but we are not quite finished yet. I will continue to campaign for all those convicted as Turing was, simply for being gay, to have their convictions disregarded. That will be a proper and fitting and final end to the Turing story.”

Openly gay Conservative Member of Parliament Iain Stewart told the Associated Press: “He helped preserve our liberty. We owed it to him in recognition of what he did for the country — and indeed the free world — that his name should be cleared.”

Actor Stephen Fry tweeted, “At bloody last. Next step a banknote if there’s any justice!”

S. Barry Cooper, a University of Leeds mathematician who has written about Turing’s work, told the AP that future generations would struggle to understand how Turing was persecuted. “You take one of your greatest scientists, and you invade his body with hormones. It was a national failure,” said Cooper.

A3-Hodges-headshot_100Turing biographer Dr Andrew Hodges told The Guardian: “Alan Turing suffered appalling treatment 60 years ago and there has been a very well-intended and deeply felt campaign to remedy it in some way. Unfortunately, I cannot feel that such a ‘pardon’ embodies any good legal principle. If anything, it suggests that a sufficiently valuable individual should be above the law which applies to everyone else. It’s far more important that in the 30 years since I brought the story to public attention, LGBT rights movements have succeeded with a complete change in the law – for all. So, for me, this symbolic action adds nothing. A more substantial action would be the release of files on Turing’s secret work for GCHQ in the cold war. Loss of security clearance, state distrust and surveillance may have been crucial factors in the two years leading up to his death in 1954.”

Turing biographer David Leavitt told the AP: “It could be argued and it has been argued that he shortened the war, and that possibly without him the Allies might not have won the war. That’s highly speculative, but I don’t think his contribution can be underestimated. It was immense.”

patrick_sammon_100bPatrick Sammon, the Executive Producer and Creator of CODEBREAKER said, “The pardon of Alan Turing is an important gesture, but of course nothing can be done to change the injustice that he suffered. It should never be forgotten. And it’s important to remember that tens of thousands of other men in the UK were arrested for the same ‘crime.’ Many men, like Turing, had their lives destroyed.”

British human rights activist Peter Tatchell told the AP that all the men who were arrested for the same “crime” as Turing should also be pardoned. “Everyone should be equal under the law. It’s wrong to give famous privileged pardons.”

Tatchell-PeterTatchell told BBC: “I pay tribute to the government for ensuring Alan Turing has a royal pardon at last but I do think it’s very wrong that other men convicted of exactly the same offence are not even being given an apology, let alone a royal pardon. We’re talking about at least 50,000 other men who were convicted of the same offence, of so-called gross indecency, which is simply a sexual act between men with consent.”

Dr Sue Black, a computer scientist, who was part of the campaign to gain a pardon for Turing, told BBC that she hoped all men convicted under the same law would now be pardoned. “This is one small step on the way to making some real positive change happen to all the people that were convicted. It’s a disgrace that so many people were treated so disrespectfully.”

Dame-Nancy-Rothwell-007Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, the president and vice chancellor of the University of Manchester, where Turing worked the last years of his life told The Telegraph: “He was a hugely significant figure in the world of mathematics and the development of the modern computer at the University of Manchester. His legacy will live on as one of the most significant scientists of his or any other generation.”

Iain Standen, the chief executive of the Bletchley Park Trust, called Turing, “a visionary mathematician and genius whose work contributed enormously both to the outcome of the war and the computer age. The pardon gives further recognition for his outstanding contribution not only to second world war codebreaking but also the development of computing.”

British home computing pioneer Sir Clive Sinclair told BBC, “I just think it’s ridiculous, frankly. He’s been dead these many years so what’s the point? It’s a silly nonsense. He was such a fine, great man, and what was done was appalling of course. It makes no sense to me, because what’s done is done.”

Turing Award winner and internet pioneer Vint Cerf told BBC that he welcomed the development. “The royal pardon for Alan Turing rights a long-standing wrong and properly honours a man whose imagination and intellect made him legendary in our field.”

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