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Sorry, Alan.
September 10, 2009 9:10 PM   Subscribe

UK government apologizes to Alan Turing. It might be a long time overdue, but it's a really nice apology. [previously]
posted by lupus_yonderboy (128 comments total) 53 users marked this as a favorite

 
Hey, that is pretty good.
posted by gurple at 9:16 PM on September 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Can you imagine the US government using the term LGBT in a positive way?

"So on behalf of the British government, and all those who live freely thanks to Alan’s work I am very proud to say: we’re sorry, you deserved so much better."

I'm not gay, and I cried.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:19 PM on September 10, 2009 [9 favorites]


Can you imagine the US government using the term LGBT in a positive way?
posted by gurple at 9:20 PM on September 10, 2009


This is just great. Hey, think of the little news events that are used by the Right as knives. Study that knife.

OK, use this as a sharp knife.
posted by gum at 9:21 PM on September 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


Dang. I meant:
Can you imagine the US government using the term LGBT in a positive way?

Nowadays, yes I can
posted by gurple at 9:21 PM on September 10, 2009 [8 favorites]


good deal, I know there was a push for it recently, so a silent salute.
posted by edgeways at 9:23 PM on September 10, 2009


Excellent.
posted by threetoed at 9:25 PM on September 10, 2009


As long-after-the-injury apologies go, this one was pretty good. It seemed heartfelt rather than pro-forma.
posted by orthogonality at 9:26 PM on September 10, 2009


That was appropriate and beautiful.
posted by karmiolz at 9:31 PM on September 10, 2009


Maybe I am just reading it wrong, but to me the apology seems weird: it is in essence saying that Turing "deserved so much better" because he was a genius who saved Britain's ass during WWII, but if he had been a regular guy, no apology would have been called for.
posted by shazzam at 9:33 PM on September 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


I had just finished Simon Singh's "The Code Book" last night. Turing's contributions to mathematics, computing, and history are highlighted, along with the apple and the cyanide and the words he learned from Sleeping Beauty: "Dip the apple in the brew / Let the sleeping death seep through." Astonishing, amazing man. Devastating ending. Intense period in history. Great book. I'm glad to see this apology rendered the thoughtful way it was.
posted by SteelyDuran at 9:40 PM on September 10, 2009


I read it as he deserved so much better because he was a human being.
posted by ocherdraco at 9:41 PM on September 10, 2009 [8 favorites]


shazzam: If he was just an ordinary guy he might not have been hounded to death. The rather cruel irony was that during the cold war gay people were considered to be a security risk, because it was believed that Soviet agents could entrap and blackmail them.

Turing was a high profile crypto researcher, the only people who had knowledge more important than him were the people who built the atom bomb. So he was specifically targeted in many ways BECAUSE of his wartime service.
posted by Grimgrin at 9:42 PM on September 10, 2009 [4 favorites]


Good thing Richard Dawkins wasn't involved in this! It would've tainted the whole procedings!
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:43 PM on September 10, 2009 [34 favorites]


The rather cruel irony was that during the cold war gay people were considered to be a security risk, because it was believed that Soviet agents could entrap and blackmail them.

The best (read: most inane) part about this was that even if you were out of the closet, you were still considered a security risk on the same level as if you were closeted. Just another example of how bigotry fucks up your brain.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:45 PM on September 10, 2009


Good on ya, Right Honourable Prime Minister.
posted by blucevalo at 9:51 PM on September 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well, this is unexpected! I signed the petition without much hope. Good, too, that he mentioned "the many thousands of other gay men" and didn't mess around with anything other than a direct apology.

Part of me wants to be cynical and say that words are cheap... but the combination of direct democracy and human rights is nice to wake up to.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 10:01 PM on September 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


And honestly, even though it seems like nothing ever changes, isn't it better to be fighting (things like) Prop 8 than "chemical castration"?
posted by freebird at 10:04 PM on September 10, 2009 [15 favorites]


Yeah, I was inclined to react cynically, but the heartfelt and very direct apology brought tears to my eyes. There are signs -- and this is one of them -- that LGBT people might one day live in a world where their essential human dignity is never called into question just because they're queer. I doubt I'll live to see that day, but I sure hope I do -- or at least live to see more evidence that such a day will come.
posted by treepour at 10:13 PM on September 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


What's the total opposite of posting a single dot? I need that right now!
posted by DreamerFi at 10:15 PM on September 10, 2009



posted by lalex at 10:20 PM on September 10, 2009 [5 favorites]


The rather cruel irony was that during the cold war gay people were considered to be a security risk, because it was believed that Soviet agents could entrap and blackmail them.

It wasn't simply believed to be the case, it was a fact that gay people could be blackmailed if they were found out. The strange thing is that the British response to this fact -- truly indicative of the times -- was not to recognize homosexuality as legally acceptable (even if "morally" undesirable), but to persecute it more harshly.
posted by voltairemodern at 10:23 PM on September 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also, this is really good. Thanks for posting it.
posted by voltairemodern at 10:24 PM on September 10, 2009


Ah, Thank you, lalex!


posted by DreamerFi at 10:24 PM on September 10, 2009



posted by Diagonalize at 10:25 PM on September 10, 2009


That was a beautiful apology.

Turing was a quite brilliant mathematician, most famous for his work on breaking the German Enigma codes.

On the other hand, that this is what Alan Turing was 'most famous' for is a fucking travesty.

posted by solipsophistocracy at 10:35 PM on September 10, 2009


that this is what Alan Turing was 'most famous' for is a fucking travesty

Are you kidding? Playing a huge role in defeating the Nazis, using no lethal weapons? How is it a travesty that he is famous for that? Oh yeah, and he invented a lot of computing and AI theory in the process, too, just for style points.
posted by msalt at 10:48 PM on September 10, 2009


On the other hand, that this is what Alan Turing was 'most famous' for is a fucking travesty.

I don't think that's really so off the mark (I'm assuming you're meaning that he's remembered for breaking the Enigma).

His contributions to mathematics were extremely important BUT very sparse. He basically ceased to become productive very quickly after an astonishing burst of brilliance. There were at least half a dozen great mathematicians working on the same ideas at the same time - Gödel, Church, Kleene and various others - and there was even an earlier formulation of the idea of computability (the Post correspondence problem, yes, there's a joke in there). While you can't underestimate the strength of his work, the fact is that people would have solved these problems pretty soon without him - and it was in fact Gödel who really took the ideas to their ultimate with his justifiably famous Incompleteness Theorem. (Side note: Gödel also had an almost equally cool Completeness Theorem in model theory, completely unrelated and with some fascinating consequences like Nonstandard Analysis, recommended to anyone who enjoyed calculus...)

On the other hand, it's absolutely clear that the British would never have solved the Enigma without Turing - and the consequences of that would have been devastating. A case could be made that this made the difference between victory and defeat - Britain was on the knife-edge for a couple of years there - and had Hitler won...
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:48 PM on September 10, 2009 [5 favorites]


Yeah, I was inclined to react cynically, but the heartfelt and very direct apology brought tears to my eyes.

Ditto. I was expecting - if there was an apology at all - a "Sorry if we hurt your feelings" kind of apology. But this was a real one, and I'm glad for that.
posted by rtha at 10:50 PM on September 10, 2009



posted by saturnine at 10:51 PM on September 10, 2009 [1 favorite]



posted by inconsequentialist at 10:52 PM on September 10, 2009


to me the apology seems weird: it is in essence saying that Turing "deserved so much better" because he was a genius who saved Britain's ass during WWII, but if he had been a regular guy, no apology would have been called for.

Hmm. I think you may have missed the part where Gordon Brown said:

"Alan and the many thousands of other gay men who were convicted as he was convicted under homophobic laws were treated terribly. Over the years millions more lived in fear of conviction. I am proud that those days are gone ."
posted by msalt at 10:54 PM on September 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wow, check out what replaced the Reddit alien just now...
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:54 PM on September 10, 2009


the fact is that people would have solved these problems pretty soon without him

I had no idea this was the case. I learned about Turing in a computer science/cognitive science classes. I didn't even know he was involved in WWII until I read Cryptonomicon.

I wonder how much his role in codebreaking influenced the amount of credit he's given in the academic realm.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 11:03 PM on September 10, 2009


Good thing Richard Dawkins wasn't involved in this! It would've tainted the whole procedings!

Indeed.
posted by The World Famous at 11:03 PM on September 10, 2009



posted by Duke999R at 11:11 PM on September 10, 2009


solipsophistocracy: please don't misunderstand, Turing's reputation is for a good reason. He was years ahead of the game, in a field where the great mathematicians of the time were working.

There are very, very few scientific discoveries that wouldn't have been discovered by someone else a few years later - as Charles Fort said, "It steam engines when it's steam engine time."

The idea of formalizing calculation as a basis for the existence of proofs was a master stroke.

But he did unfortunately burn out young - in fact, after the war there was a very sad moment where he announced he was going to give a talk with a ground-breaking new discovery and a day before, cancelled it, saying he'd discovered a flaw in his work (and never revealed what it was going to be...)

To my mind, it's pretty certain that the burnout was caused by the intense work at Bletchly Park and only secondarily by the consequences of his homosexuality. Indeed, until he was "caught" (and he wasn't really caught, he voluntarily told a police officer after one of his flings stole his stereo) he wasn't bothered by it - and had been warned by friends that he should "be more careful."

He burned out his math career and quite likely saved England and perhaps the free world. A good deal, really.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:14 PM on September 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


"Alan"?
posted by GeorgeBickham at 11:23 PM on September 10, 2009


I signed the petition thinking very little would come of it. I've just woken up and am grinning like an idiot.
posted by greycap at 11:30 PM on September 10, 2009


Alan Turing is my dream date. I don't care how old he would be now, I'd still jump his bones. In fact, dig 'em up, I'll jump them now.
posted by sexyrobot at 11:32 PM on September 10, 2009


maybe with the queen watching...and the prime minister clapping...maybe ernest rutherford joining in...ooh, this date just keeps getting better and better...
posted by sexyrobot at 11:32 PM on September 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


All you folks in the UK who got over the initial "meh" and signed this petition... you rule. This has been way too long coming.

Now to start a petition for some sort of posthumous honour. His contribution to CS is above question, but his SIGINT work saved enough lives to put him at the same level as any decorated WWII hero.
posted by vanar sena at 11:41 PM on September 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


if he had been a regular guy, no apology would have been called for.

The singling-out of Turing in the pardon campaign troubled a lot of my gay friends for that reason, but I think that the statement strikes a good balance: he is now regarded as the most severe casualty of the homophobic paranoia that followed the defection of Burgess and Maclean in 1951, an event which set off both a wave of arrests and established the distasteful popular caricature of "gay + Oxbridge = spying for the Russians" for decades. (I'm pretty sure that the prohibition on being gay and serving in the Diplomatic Service and the various intelligence services extended until the collapse of the USSR.)

But Turinng's life and death also opens the door to an understanding of how so many gay men suffered the same shabby treatment. Some were prominent figures, because of the desire of Maxwell Fyfe and others to make examples of those committing "male vice" through entrapment and subterfuge, but many were not famous, and persecuted all the same.

Gordon Brown: behind a mediocre PM there's a genuinely decent person, and that lack of polish actually improves statements like this one.
posted by holgate at 11:44 PM on September 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


vanar sena, he got an OBE in 1945.
posted by maqsarian at 11:49 PM on September 10, 2009


vanar sena, he got an OBE in 1945.

does this shade of red suit my face
posted by vanar sena at 11:52 PM on September 10, 2009


I'm pretty sure that the prohibition on being gay and serving in the Diplomatic Service and the various intelligence services extended until the collapse of the USSR.

I don't believe so: at least in the early 60s the policy was (according to my mother, who was involved in vetting for various state bodies) that it was only considered problematic if you were closeted, and hence could be blackmailed. The irony was, of course, that homosexual acts pre-Wolfenden were illegal, added to which social disapproval would have made it extremely difficult to be out.

She claims that there was never any blanket ban on homosexuals, or even communists in most public bodies (although I doubt that this was true of the latter for the intelligence services). A very British pseudo-toleration that would not have prevented active discrimination - of which there is ample evidence, and not just towards national heroes.
posted by GeorgeBickham at 12:01 AM on September 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


Sorry you're dead, get well soon.
posted by Artw at 12:10 AM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


By then he was also a silk and married to the actor Rex Harrison’s attractive sister.

What's that mean?

posted by nebulawindphone at 12:16 AM on September 11, 2009


the "You deserved better" choked me up, too, I don't know why. It seemed so personal and sincere.
posted by empath at 12:18 AM on September 11, 2009


Btw, can we do Oscar Wilde next?
posted by empath at 12:24 AM on September 11, 2009 [5 favorites]


That was first rate! Who writes Gordon Brown's speeches?

No apology this specific, unequivocal or honest would EVER be made by a sitting US president. Especially for homophobia.
posted by serazin at 12:27 AM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's cost free and all, but I'm kind of weirded out by Gordon Brown doing something so right and so well - I thought he was supposed to be useless at everything?

(though, obviously, not as crazy as Blair. A Major to Blair's Thatcher)
posted by Artw at 12:32 AM on September 11, 2009


Another one who signed the petition not expecting much, and genuinely pleased this happened. As Holgate said, Brown hasn't got a very good reputation as PM at the moment, but this kind of thing reminds people that actually he is a pretty decent human being.

Nebulawindphone - I am guessing the reference is to the legal profession - a silk is a QC (Queens Council). At least I think so. Someone come and tell me if I am wrong.
posted by Megami at 12:33 AM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Here - more about what a 'silk' is.
posted by Megami at 12:34 AM on September 11, 2009


What's that mean?

Queen's Counsel (no pun intended)
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:37 AM on September 11, 2009


But he [Turing] did unfortunately burn out young

I don't think this is entirely fair, or accurate. For starters, Turing died young, so it doesn't make sense to claim he burned out before he died -- how could you possibly know what else he was capable of? If he had lived to be seventy and never made another contribution, then it might be a fair statement, but as it stands you're just buying into the common tropes of youth and discovery.

Furthermore, you're simply ignoring his later work, in particular the chemical basis of morphogenesis, which contains early applications of non-linear dynamics, the field that eventually lead to the study of chaos.
posted by abc123xyzinfinity at 12:51 AM on September 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


GeorgeBickham: I slightly misrecalled, as the ban was related to full security clearances, and lifted in 1991; I definitely saw a "sorry, no gays need apply" line in a Diplomatic Service fast-track brochure around that time, though I imagine that there was a tacit don't ask, don't tell even then.
posted by holgate at 12:57 AM on September 11, 2009


serazin - at least when I worked in the periphery of his office a few years back, he wrote his own speeches.
posted by athenian at 1:37 AM on September 11, 2009


It's cost free and all, but I'm kind of weirded out by Gordon Brown doing something so right and so well

They tell me he's surprisingly deft at kissing babies, too.
posted by Phanx at 1:43 AM on September 11, 2009


While any acknowledgment of injustice of those laws and the indignities suffered by those prosecuted under them is welcome this is quite clearly a cheap piece of positive publicity for an unelected Prime Minister who is on his last legs in every other respect.
posted by zemblamatic at 1:46 AM on September 11, 2009


Good on Gordon Brown! One small step toward a more just society. Now apologise for the unjust prosecution of Megrahni! I think we may have to wait another 60 years for that.

For the record, I don't think he is a particularly bad PM, certainly not as much a scum bag as anyone who has been in office for the past 30 years. He is not photogenic, nor does he deliver speeches particularly endearingly, but how important are these abilities to the successful execution of the job? The press, Blairite cronies and other pond life seem to have it in for him regardless of what he does.

He has overseen the fastest two month rise in the FTSE in 22 years, which you would think might get him some positive press. He is much less of a liability than Blair to the nations well being, IMHO.

All the Labour party need to do is show some backbone and define themselves as an alternative to the Tory party rather than a version of it. Admit the Blairite continuation of Thatcherism was a mistake and start repealing the paranoia laws, amongst other things.
posted by asok at 2:01 AM on September 11, 2009 [6 favorites]


Has Turing been pardoned? Or is a pardon implicit in the legislation he was prosecuted under having been repealed?
posted by acb at 2:15 AM on September 11, 2009


Don't be sorry... it's a homo's devil machine!
posted by mek at 2:26 AM on September 11, 2009 [6 favorites]


This is heartwarming.
posted by maxwelton at 2:47 AM on September 11, 2009


unelected Prime Minister

Not to derail, but ffs take this stuff to Have Your Say where it belongs. Brown was appointed according to the proper constitutional process, just like John Major. We do not have a presidential system in this country, please stop trying to pretend we do.
posted by athenian at 2:56 AM on September 11, 2009 [10 favorites]


It's all rather hollow point scoring.

Funny that they should decide to pardon Michael Shields on the day of an England international.

Of course, Prime Minister.
posted by run"monty at 4:04 AM on September 11, 2009


This is such a great apology. I can't wait until the US comes around to something anywhere close. Bravo, UK!

GeorgeBickham: I don't believe so: at least in the early 60s the policy was (according to my mother, who was involved in vetting for various state bodies) that it was only considered problematic if you were closeted, and hence could be blackmailed.

This is pretty much still true in the US for anybody with a security clearance. But they don't want anybody who can be blackmailed for any reason, so it's not exactly like they're singling out gays. It's just a byproduct of the social stigma some still attach to being gay, which keeps people closeted for fear of...ostracization? and therefore makes them blackmailable.
posted by This Guy at 4:53 AM on September 11, 2009


Thanks for helping us beat the nazis, sorry about that whole chemical castration and suicide thing. God Save The Queen!
posted by absalom at 5:10 AM on September 11, 2009


Pointless gesture.

And it was the Spitfire that saved the UK during WW2, not Turing. :)
posted by the cuban at 5:22 AM on September 11, 2009


It not often a politician makes an actual apology apology so free of weasel words and actually using such unequivocal language as "horrifying", "appalling", "terrible", ect. Obviously it's too late to undo the hurt, but I think acknowledging that harm was done, not just to Alan Turing, but so many others too, has real meaning.

And I don't think it is, but if this is just a politician scoring easy points with empty words.... well wow! How far have we come if speaking so plainly in favour of LGBT issues is uncontroversial enough that it would gain more political capital than it looses?
posted by adamt at 5:33 AM on September 11, 2009



posted by Morrigan at 5:44 AM on September 11, 2009


When I was in college (mid 90s), there was a "weird" guy who was good at math, had an odd voice and liked to go running. Incredibly, his name was also Alan. I remember thinking and probably saying that he was "gay" and I meant that in a negative way.

To that "regular guy" Alan and to the famous one, plus all the others: I'm sorry. I hope I've gotten better, if I'm not always perfect.
posted by DU at 5:46 AM on September 11, 2009 [8 favorites]


I'm pretty sure that we (the Allies) would have won World War II eventually, even had Britain fallen, but good lord, it would have cost SO many more lives. Turing's work was invaluable. His treatment by his own government truly was despicable (not that we in the U.S. have never treated people just as poorly) and it's high time that a real apology was given. There are probably MILLIONS of people alive today who would not even exist without Turing, because their parents or their grandparents would have been killed. While I don't believe he saved the world, he saved a lot of lives IN the world, and he quite possibly did save his own country. A heartfelt, albeit posthumous, salute to you, Mr. Turing!
posted by jamstigator at 5:59 AM on September 11, 2009


I remember thinking and probably saying that he was "gay" and I meant that in a negative way.

And now that I think about it, one of the people I likely made comments to (if comments I made), was my roommate who I recently found out is definitely gay. *facepalm*

Maybe it would be simpler if I just apologized to everyone for being so stupid, with "gays" and "in the past" being subsets of that.
posted by DU at 6:03 AM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


One of the hardest thing to do is to apologize for something that wasn't your fault explicitly, but is your fault officially.

so:





posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:09 AM on September 11, 2009



posted by Dee Xtrovert at 6:13 AM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


While any acknowledgment of injustice of those laws and the indignities suffered by those prosecuted under them is welcome this is quite clearly a cheap piece of positive publicity for an unelected Prime Minister who is on his last legs in every other respect.

You know, I wish it was a given that a Prime Minister making a rousing statement in favor of gay equality in Britain in 2009 was scoring a "cheap piece of positive publicity", without any risk of a hostile response from parts of the electorate, but I think you assume too much.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 6:21 AM on September 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


One of the many reasons this is not hollow and pointless: the significant overlap between people who are homophobic and people who fetishize war and patriotism. If this gives even one or two of them pause for thought - or plant a small seed of doubt - it would have been worth it. As, meanwhile.

There is no reason why it could not have been both heartfelt and political on Gordon Brown's part. I don't see how it matters - doing good things to gain the voters' approval is pretty damn close enough to what I want in a politician. (And for what it's worth, I think Gordon Brown might've written this himself - it's pretty poorly worded in places). Further, we do not live in this post-homophobia world where you can thank "LGBT activists" and be seen to be standing by "our LGBT community" without losing any votes. It's not as if it's going to change the result at the next election either way - surely even he knows that barring some major miracle, he is going to lose. If he can do a small good thing like this while he is still in government, then it is something. It is worthwhile.
posted by catchingsignals at 6:22 AM on September 11, 2009 [10 favorites]




One of the hardest thing to do is to apologize for something that wasn't your fault explicitly, but is your fault officially.

I'd think that would be pretty easy to do, actually.

posted by mediareport at 6:25 AM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]



posted by kryptondog at 6:32 AM on September 11, 2009


I approve of this heart-on.


posted by Mister_A at 6:39 AM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Further, we do not live in this post-homophobia world where you can thank "LGBT activists" and be seen to be standing by "our LGBT community" without losing any votes.

Seconded. Even the politicians I like usually say things like "diversity" and "other protected groups" instead of just coming out (har har) and saying "I support gay (or LGBT, or whatever) people".
posted by freecellwizard at 6:54 AM on September 11, 2009


After hearing of the petition, I was really doubtful that this would ever happen - I am pleasantly shocked that the UK has done the right thing so quickly (at least in one sense - the apology being long overdue).
Not quite enough to rekindle my faith in governments, but it's a start.
posted by bashos_frog at 6:55 AM on September 11, 2009


That was a real apology. A rare, heartfelt, actually apologetic and sorrowful apology. Too bad Turing isn't around to accept it, but as a member of the tribe, it brought tears to my eyes.
posted by arcticwoman at 6:59 AM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


If nothing else, maybe this apology will bring to light just how horrible his, and many others, treatments were. And maybe this outrage will help speed the process to be rid of all such mistreatment and barbarism.
posted by strixus at 7:01 AM on September 11, 2009



posted by jquinby at 7:08 AM on September 11, 2009


I signed the petition at petitions.number10.gov.uk, and was pleasantly surprised to find the apology in my inbox this morning. Of the dozen or so petitions I've signed there, this is the only one that had a decent non pablum response. Yay!


posted by Tapioca at 7:19 AM on September 11, 2009


This is great. Any of you who live in the UK, or are planning to visit - GO SEE BLETCHLEY PARK! It's a fascinating place, and is very short of money, so needs as many visitors as it can get.
posted by altolinguistic at 7:24 AM on September 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


At long last. Nicely done, Gordon- I think this is a case of better late than never.


posted by psychostorm at 7:29 AM on September 11, 2009


Repeating myself:

Belated apology and recognition by important government leaders is important because it moves those events into the official history, as opposed to just a footnote or an isolated element of the alternative historical narrative. It serves to mark the way that times have changed since the event happened. Governments are often quick to acknowledge things that they are proud of. Take for example, Obama's attendance and speech at Kennedy's funeral. But they are reluctant to acknowledge their mistakes. Yes, it's a purely ceremonial gesture, but ceremony is significant to how we conduct the business of government.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:34 AM on September 11, 2009 [5 favorites]


For a long time, I've been embarrassed how little I know about Alan Turing -- if only because I'm a gay guy who was always good at math but who really likes history a lot better. If anybody could recommend their favorite/best books on him and his work, I would greatly appreciate it. (Seems to me this is a good use of the thread actually, but it's probably best to MeFi or personally mail me at mike.mcnamara at gmail )

I know I could do a google search to get started on this, but I'd rather have the filter of MetaGenius.

Also:


(I know the ♥ is painfully twee, but I'm kind of hoping it catches on around here...not often, but for special occasions)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 7:37 AM on September 11, 2009


"If anybody could recommend their favorite/best books on him and his work, I would greatly appreciate it."

Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges is not just the best biography of Turing, it widely regarded as one of the best scientific biographies ever written.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 7:49 AM on September 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


Dearest Alan,

Remember that chemical castration? Boy was that a load of codswallop!

Yours,
The U.K.
posted by tybeet at 7:53 AM on September 11, 2009


I received the news in an email this morning. I'm happy that this happened, and I'm happy to say that I was one of the many thousands that signed the petition. This is a good thing.
posted by ob at 7:58 AM on September 11, 2009



posted by The Toad at 8:04 AM on September 11, 2009


♥!

Amazing. Stunning. That was an actual, honest-to-goodness, heartfelt apology.

I must admit I never expected it.

Well said, Mr. Prime Minister. Congratulations and kudos to everyone who signed and campaigned for this, (especially Mr. Dawkins, whose efforts no doubt raised awareness tenfold.)
posted by zarq at 8:10 AM on September 11, 2009


Oh wow:

"Turing was issuing the warning that we should not dismiss or persecute entities which we cannot easily categorize or understand."

A paper about the Turing test and "passing". Hugely relevant to a lot of us, I think.
posted by clavicle at 8:13 AM on September 11, 2009 [2 favorites]



posted by bitter-girl.com at 8:15 AM on September 11, 2009


Well done, UK.
posted by Quietgal at 8:20 AM on September 11, 2009


Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges

Be sure to check out Hodges' website: The Alan Turing Home Page. I recommend watching the play: Breaking the Code -- adapted for TV and available on DVD.
posted by ericb at 8:36 AM on September 11, 2009


Someone should copy this to the authorities in the US military who are happily firing translators of Arabic because they are (horrors) gay.
posted by binturong at 8:56 AM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Mark my words that influence of his later works will grow and merge with his earlier works.
posted by Free word order! at 9:05 AM on September 11, 2009


Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges

+1

Random: If there's ever a film adaptation, I imagine Bryan Batt (aka Sal from Mad Men) would be a stellar choice for the lead role.
posted by BoatMeme at 9:07 AM on September 11, 2009


There already was a film adaptation.
posted by empath at 9:14 AM on September 11, 2009


Made for TV? Boo!

Kidding.

Gonna have to track that down. What do you suppose the odds are that Netflix streams it? Probably nil considering it is not a documentary and it is something I actually want to watch at the moment.
posted by BoatMeme at 9:25 AM on September 11, 2009


Nothing with Derek Jacobi should ever be booed. I've loved since Dead Again and feel he should have gotten much more time playing (Doctor Who Season 29 Spoiler Redacted), and because of that I've always meant to see Breaking the Code. Thanks for reminding me.

And thanks for the other recommendations.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:41 AM on September 11, 2009


A pretty amazing editorial from the Guardian in 1957 gives the flavour of the times.
posted by binturong at 9:56 AM on September 11, 2009 [5 favorites]


The past is another planet...
posted by Artw at 10:24 AM on September 11, 2009




Wasn't that movie the one where they portrayed Turing as having a female love interest?

When I heard about this petition I immediately knew it was the right thing, but being a US citizen the best I figured I could do was to point out the petition here where some of you could sign it. I don't pretend that makes me responsible for any of the signatures (that thread got Richard Dawkins more attention than it did Turing), but that was my attempt, at least.
posted by idiopath at 10:37 AM on September 11, 2009


A pretty amazing editorial from the Guardian in 1957 gives the flavour of the times.

And that was probably a very forward-thinking editorial statement for the times, too. Saying that men should be able to cohabit without being criminals is pretty great, I think. We only had the last remnants of the sodomy laws struck down here in the US in 2003.
posted by hippybear at 10:43 AM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wasn't that movie the one where they portrayed Turing as having a female love interest?

I believe you may be thinking of the 2001 fictional film Enigma in which the Turing-like character (Tom Jericho) has a girlfriend (Claire Romilly).
"The film has also been criticised for substituting the character of Jericho for Alan Turing. Jericho, who is clearly a stand-in for Turing, drops references to the Entscheidungsproblem and Turing machines, but is heterosexual and provides the love interest to the film..."*
posted by ericb at 10:46 AM on September 11, 2009


THis is great, I QQed a little.
posted by Scoo at 10:52 AM on September 11, 2009



posted by emperor.seamus at 10:56 AM on September 11, 2009


Perhaps I've grown cynical, but I was expecting something more along the lines of, "we're sorry that you feel so bad about this," the typical non-apology. The succinctness of, "we’re sorry, you deserved so much better," while perhaps a bit on the brief side, is certainly unequivocal.


posted by lekvar at 10:57 AM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's been a long time so it's hard now to imagine how bleak things were when Turing was assigned to Bletchley Park. How quickly the British government forgot that the in onset of the Cold War. Every time there is some commemoration of the end of WWII there should be a moment spent contemplating Turing's accomplishment and its contribution to bringing that war to an end.
posted by tommasz at 10:59 AM on September 11, 2009


This really made me feel good. It's been a tough week gay-wise. Sure, they're just cheap sweet words from a lame duck politician, but they're still nice to hear. It means something to me. Thank you PM Brown.
posted by Craig at 11:15 AM on September 11, 2009


.♥...♥♥♥.♥..♥♥♥♥..♥......♥.....♥.♥..♥♥...♥.....♥.♥..♥♥♥...♥....♥
posted by ubiquity at 11:32 AM on September 11, 2009 [3 favorites]



posted by webmutant at 12:06 PM on September 11, 2009


Serazin: Clinton apologized for the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment in May 1997. A bit longer-winded, but no less impressive.

I don't want to get into a pissing contest over whose human rights were more viciously trampled at all. I offer this merely to point out that decency and the POTUS have coincided before.

That said, BRAVO, Mister Prime Minister!
BRAVO to all those who signed the petition!
posted by I, Credulous at 1:27 PM on September 11, 2009


In these latter days, he might have best been known for a test of intelligence. Hard to avoid the sense that Gordon Brown and the UK passed an altogether different kind of test today.
posted by bicyclefish at 2:20 PM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Seconding (nthing?) the recommendation for Breaking the Code; Derek Jacobi is always wonderful.

Also, applause for the UK, the PM, and the petitioners for this moving apology.
posted by kristi at 6:31 PM on September 11, 2009


(Q, Γ, b, Σ, δ, q0, F, ♥)
posted by shadytrees at 8:58 PM on September 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


I, Credulous, thanks for the link. That is strongly worded and specific. Maybe a touch more slick than this apology, but genuine. I guess Clinton had his merits after all.
posted by serazin at 11:51 AM on September 12, 2009


As one who actually lives in the UK, I do think this was a good gesture. As a physics grad I especially empathise with any persecuted scientists (it's hard enough as it is).

It won't change everything overnight, but something did need saying.

Better than staying silent, I say.
posted by KMH at 12:45 PM on September 12, 2009


shadytrees - (Q, Γ, b, Σ, δ, q0, F, ♥)

Now this is just outstanding.
posted by vanar sena at 2:41 PM on September 12, 2009


View from planet Telegraph...
posted by Phanx at 12:50 AM on September 13, 2009


View from planet Telegraph... (Phanx)

.
posted by ocherdraco at 2:23 AM on September 13, 2009


Alan Turing

here's a toast to Alan Turing
born in harsher, darker times
who thought outside the container
and loved outside the lines
and so the code-breaker was broken
and we're sorry
yes now the s-word has been spoken
the official conscience woken
— very carefully scripted but at least it's not encrypted —
and the story does suggest
a part 2 to the Turing Test:
1. can machines behave like humans?
2. can we?

              —Matt Harvey
posted by ocherdraco at 7:39 AM on September 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


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