Alan Turing was a code breaker who revolutionised artificial intelligent engineering during the second world war. There were only a small number of people who only knew of him and his work before Benedict Cumberbatch’s portrayal of him in the award winning film, ’The Imitation Game’. Turing was part of a team which set out to break the Enigma Code – a complex set of letters and numbers coded by German scientists which was used send secret messages to German U-boats in the battle of Atlantic during the second world war. U-boats would often disrupt the paths of containment ships which contained vital supplies for Great Britain. By breaking this code, Turing and his team were able to outsmart the U-boats which eventually led the allies to victory and pushed back the war by at least four years.
In contrast to the victory, Turing’s unfortunate suicide was triggered at first by being found guilty of “gross indecency contrary to Section II of the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1885” on three attempts. Punished with a choice of either imprisonment or chemical castration, Turing was left with no choice but to ingest chemicals to “cure” his homosexuality. The idea was that the castration technique would turn him into a heterosexual by reducing his hormone levels. Turing was found dead in June of 1954 after intentionally eating an apple filled with cyanide.
Almost 60 years later, in 2013, Turing was given a royal pardon by the queen – this was essentially an apology for the way in which he was brutally treated. This, of course, was supported by many important persons on a global scale. However, it also raised questions and thoughts about the type of small minded society that most Britons lived in. Those in the LGBT+ community often lived by keeping their identity a secret- or like Turing, marry a person of the opposite sex in order to remain ‘normal’ to the rest of society.
During the war, there were many countries in which being homosexual was criminalised. However, in Germany, the LGBT community were especially segregated and went under the most merciless treatment. Both Great Britain and Germany were damaging communities and punishing homosexuals at extreme measures even though both countries were fighting each other. If both parties believed most truly in the same causes then was the war even that necessary? Additionally, it is a known fact that the person on the throne will pass all the laws. The Queen herself was coronated in 1953, Turing died in 1954 and homosexuality was legalised in 1967. Discarding all the circumstances, would it have been possible the homosexuality bill to be passed earlier, preventing Turing’s death anyway?
There are many questions still being asked in which getting hold of an answer will merely seem impossible. Although, Turing’s work saved the lives of hundred and thousands of people, it was his identity that let him down in the end and he could not go on to contribute more to science due the simple fact that his sexual preference was not accepted in society. Changing laws does not necessarily change opinions. Everyone living in a small minded society cannot suddenly become more open to new ideas due to a passing of a bill. Yet following authority figures in order to bypass commotion only shows conformity and fear. Turing ignored the stigma placed upon his sexuality and came out honest and clean despite opinions and laws- this being a method we should all adapt.
Source : The Daily Beast. (2018). The Castration of Alan Turing, Britain’s Code-Breaking WWII Hero. [online] Available at: https://www.thedailybeast.com/the-castration-of-alan-turing-britains-code-breaking-wwii-hero [Accessed 16 Oct. 2018].