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Alan Turing given posthumous royal pardon

The World War II code-breaker was convicted for homosexual activity

By Derek Du Preez, Computerworld UK
December 26, 2013 11:26 AM ET

Computerworld UK - Dr Alan Turing has finally been granted a posthumous royal pardon under the Royal Prerogative of Mercy by the Queen following a long campaign to clear his name.

The renowned World War II code-breaker is often described as the 'father of modern computing' and played a key role in cracking the Enigma code.

However, Turing was convicted in 1952 for homosexual activity and was sentenced to undergo chemical castration.

In addition to the emotional and physical damage suffered by Dr. Turing, his conviction also led to the removal of his security clearance, which meant he was no longer able to work for GCHQ.

It is thought that his work in breaking the Enigma code shortened the Second World War by at least two years.

Turing died in 1952 from cyanide poisoning, which an inquest decided was the result of him committing suicide. However, there has been speculation over the years that the cause of his death was an accident.

"Dr Alan Turing was an exceptional man with a brilliant mind. His brilliance was put into practice at Bletchley Park during the Second World War where he was pivotal to breaking the 'Enigma' code, helping to end the war and save thousands of lives," said Justice Secretary Chris Grayling.

"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conviction for homosexual activity, a sentence we would now consider unjust and discriminatory and which has now been repealed."

He added: "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."

Typically a pardon is only normally granted when the person is innocent of the offence and where a request has been made by someone with a vested interested, such as a family member. Uniquely on this occasion a pardon has been issued without either requirement being met - reflecting the exceptional nature of Alan Turing's achievements, according to the government.

The pardon under the Royal Prerogative of Mercy will come into effect today.

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