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Gordon Brown issues apology for treatment of Alan Turing

11 Sep 2009

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has released a statement on the Second World War code-breaker and brilliant mathematician Alan Turing, recognising the ‘appalling’ way he was treated due to his sexuality.

The official HR record of Alan Turing
The official HR record of Alan Turing

Turing worked at The University of Manchester from 1948 to 1954 and made significant contributions to the emerging field of artificial intelligence and computing.

While at Manchester, Turing worked on the Manchester Mark 1, one of the first recognisable modern computers.

Turing was convicted of ‘gross indecency’ in 1952 and underwent chemical castration as part of his punishment.

Gordon Brown’s statement came in response to a petition posted on the Number 10 website which has received thousands of signatures in recent months.

In the statement Brown said: “Turing was a quite brilliant mathematician, most famous for his work on breaking the German Enigma codes. It is no exaggeration to say that, without his outstanding contribution, the history of World War Two could well have been very different. He truly was one of those individuals we can point to whose unique contribution helped to turn the tide of war.

“The debt of gratitude he is owed makes it all the more horrifying, therefore, that he was treated so inhumanely. In 1952, he was convicted of ‘gross indecency’ - in effect, tried for being gay. His sentence - and he was faced with the miserable choice of this or prison - was chemical castration by a series of injections of female hormones. He took his own life just two years later.”

He concluded: “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."

In 1999 Time Magazine named him as one of the 100 Most Important People of the 20th Century.

The full statement from Gordon Brown can be read at: http://www.number10.gov.uk/Page20571

Notes for editors

For information about Alan Turing's time at The University of Manchester please contact Alex Waddington on 0161 275 8387 or 07717 881569.