Wednesday, January 16, 2008

How Turing Died

Everyone reading this posting right now owes a bit of gratitude to Alan Turing not only because he is one of the mathematicians that helped create the modern computer (particular important regarding programming languages), he was one of the British cryptologists that decoded the code that the German Navy was using during WWII. The film Enigma is loosely based on him. The enigma machine is his baby.

I learn today of how he died. Like Snow White, he ate a cyanide apple, but his case he was not saved. In 1952 he caught someone breaking into his home. He reported the incident and as a part of the investigation, it was discovered that an ex-lover of his was involved. The police connected the dots and arrested him for gross indecency under section 11 of Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885. After being found "guilty" he was given the choice between a year in jail or chemical castration. He chose the latter and received frequent hormone shots which prevented him from getting an erection and also, made his grow breasts. From here on end, he wasn't allowed to ever work on his cryptology work due his "criminal" record. Nice way to treat someone that helped us beat the Nazis.

Homosexuality was considered a criminal offense in Great Britain until 1967.

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