Today would have marked the 100th birthday of Alan Turing. Turing’s contributions in artificial intelligence and computing alone would have guaranteed his place among the greatest thinkers of the 20th century, but that was only a small part of his genius. His pioneering work on cryptography at Bletchley Park allowed the British to crack the German Enigma code, with the likely result of shortening the war by years, saving millions of lives. Tragically, he was persecuted for his homosexuality, and committed suicide before his 42nd birthday. The savior of millions could not find acceptance in the society he helped preserve.
In a 2009 official apology from the British government:
Thousands of people have come together to demand justice for Alan Turing and recognition of the appalling way he was treated. While 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 … 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.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown, 2009
Amen. Happy Birthday, Alan.