Nearly 60 years after his death, officials in the United Kingdom plan to formally pardon famed British mathematician and computer scientist Alan Turing who was chemically castrated after being convicted in 1952 of the crime of homosexuality.
Turing, widely considered to be the father of computer science and artificial intelligence, is most famous for his work on breaking the German Enigma codes during World War II.
He was also gay, and in 1952 was criminally prosecuted under Britain’s 1885 Criminal Law Amendment Act that criminalized homosexual activity and led to the convictions of over 49,000 British men, including Oscar Wilde.
Faced with the prospect of imprisonment, and perhaps with it the loss of the mathematics post he held at Manchester University, which gave him access to one of the world’s only computers, Turing accepted the alternative of “chemical castration” — a series of injections of female hormones that were supposed to suppress his sexual urges.
At age 41, he died of cyanide poisoning on June 7, 1954 in what was ruled a suicide.
Until now, the British government has refused to pardon Turing, but on Friday the government said it would support a bill that would give him a complete posthumous pardon.
Liberal Democrat Lord Sharkey, who rallied on behalf of Turing, said “The government knows that Turing was a hero and a very great man.”
“They acknowledge that he was cruelly treated,” he said, announcing the pardon. “They must have seen the esteem in which he is held here and around the world.”
As long as no one calls for amendments, the legislation should clear Parliament’s House of Lords by late October and reach the House of Commons soon afterward. While there’s no guarantee that the measure will ultimately pass, the rare level of endorsement suggests that Turing’s name would soon be cleared.