|Honoring Alan Turing with a British Stamp|
Alan Turing was once a hero in England. He helped the government crack German Codes during World War II and developed the Turning Machine, establishing the framework for today's modern computers and was generally regarded as one of the nation's brightest stars. Google celebrates "the father of computer science and artificial intelligence" with an interactive "intelligence test doodle". It's a kind of "Turing machine". Then, in 1952, Turing was outed, leading to a very public trial, conviction and chemically castrated for "gross indecency." He killed himself two years later. Now, 60 years on, the British government is honoring Turing by including him in a series of twelve new "Britons of Distinction" stamps set to be released to coincide with the year of the 100 anniversary of his birth.
June 23, 1912-June 7, 1954
George Broadhead, secretary of the Humanist group the Pink Triangle Trust, celebrated Turing's inclusion in a press release. "This is richly deserved," he wrote. "It is well known that Turing was gay, but perhaps not so well known that he was a staunch atheist.
There are many other famous gay atheists past and present — Christopher Marlowe, Maynard Keynes, Stephen Fry and and Michael Cashman among them — but Turing is probably the most notable since his breaking of the Enigma Code went such a long way in saving the UK from defeat in the last war." Though Turing's picture is not featured on the new stamp - one of his eponymous machines is, instead - the news is just the latest step in a decades-long effort to redeem Turing's image. Perhaps the biggest development came in 2009, when then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown issued an official apology for Turing's treatment. "While Mr Turing was dealt with under the law of the time and we can't put the clock back, his treatment was of course utterly unfair and I am pleased to have the chance to say how deeply sorry I and we all are for what happened to him," Brown said at the time. "Alan and the many thousands of other gay men who were convicted, as he was convicted, under homophobic laws, were treated terribly. A new petition is now asking that the government to offer an official posthumous pardon for Turing. One of Turing's supporters, programmer John Graham-Cumming, actually opposes this petition, because it still assumes other gay men convicted under since-scrapped laws were guilty of something wrong. "You either pardon all the gay men convicted (including, most importantly, those that are still living with criminal convictions) or you do nothing," he contended.
Normally, when Google creates doodles, it uses its brains to create art that everyone can grasp and feel. For the 100th anniversary of his birth, the U.S. and places like New Zealand, however, the company has decided to offer no such creative mercies, and you can hardly celebrate his memory with something fluffy and brightly colored. Instead, there are a series of 1s and 0s and arrows pointing to left and right.
There are six puzzles to solve, one for each letter in the Google logo. After completing it the first time you can play again at a more difficult level. The aim is to make the numbers on the tape match the numbers in the upper right. You're basically setting up a program that the machine will run through. There is a green start button, which I am sure one is supposed to click. The aim of this work of very high art is to spell out the word Google in binary. Turing was an exceptionally gifted mathematician, computer scientist and code breaker, whose Turing Machine (which this doodle commemorates) was the basis for so much in computing.
In an act of utter disgrace, for which the British government only apologized in 2009, Turing was prosecuted for homosexuality in 1952. He was chemically castrated and died in 1954 (aged 41) after biting into an apple laced with cyanide. At the time, an inquest declared this to be suicide. However, some believe his death was an accident. This was the man who had helped crack the German Enigma code, a great step toward bringing a successful end to World War II. In return, he was prosecuted for gross indecency and given the choice of prison or experimental chemical castration. He chose the latter. His conviction meant he could no longer work for the British government. (He was one of around 100,000 gay men convicted at the time.)
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown Said in his 2009 Apology:
While Mr. Turing was dealt with under the law of the time and we can't put the clock back, his treatment was of course utterly unfair and I am pleased to have the chance to say how deeply sorry I and we all are for what happened to him. His conviction was never overturned, this despite efforts in 2011. The British government declared that he was legally convicted at the time, and therefore wouldn't make an exception. It did, however, make an exception for 300 World War I deserters in 2006. The reason for many of their desertions had been given as shell shock. British Member of Parliament John Leech has long tried to get the same kind of pardon for Turing.
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