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Thursday, June 23, 2016

Time doesn't always move fast, or forward


Alan Mathison Turing was born on June 23, 1912. Today is the 104th anniversary of his birth.

Turing won a first in maths at King's College, Cambridge, in 1931. In 1935 he was elected a fellow of King's, at the age of 22.

In 1938, Turing earned his Ph.D at Princeton.

From 1939 to 1945 he was head of cryptology work at for the United Kingdom, and cracked the German coding machines. His work not only shortened World War II by up to four years (in some estimations) and saved uncountable thousands of lives, it laid the groundwork for the modern computer. Your smart phone in your pocket, your computer on your desk, the ones that run machines in your home and office and your ATM and in your car- they all arose from his work.

Turing’s studies have influenced the fields of mathematics, cryptanalysis, logic, computer science, mathematical and theoretical biology.

In 1945-47 Turing worked on computer design and theory for the British government in London.

In 1948 King George VI gave Turing the OBE for his still-secret war services. That year, Turing also became a member of the faculty of Victoria University of Manchester and head of its computer labs.

In 1951 Alan Turing was elected a member of the Royal Society.

In 1954, Alan Turing died.

How important was Alan Turing and his work?

The computer room at King's College, Cambridge, Alan Turing's alma mater, is called the Turing Room. The Turing Room at the University of Edinburgh's School of Informatics houses a bust of Turing by Eduardo Paolozzi.

The University of Surrey has a statue of Turing on their main piazza, and one of the buildings of Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences is named after him. Istanbul Bilgi University organizes an annual conference on the theory of computation called "Turing Days".

The University of Texas at Austin has an honors computer science program named the Turing Scholars.

In the early 1960s, Stanford University named the sole lecture room of the Polya Hall Mathematics building "Alan Turing Auditorium". One of the amphitheaters of the Computer Science department at the University of Lille in northern France is named in honor of Alan M. Turing.

Other scientific facilities bearing his name in include The Alan Turing Building at the University of Manchester; The Department of Computer Science at Pontifical Catholic University of Chile; the University of Buenos Aires; the Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico; Los Andes University in Bogotá, Colombia, King's College, Cambridge; Bangor University in Wales; the Universities of Ghent and Mons in Belgium;  the University of Turin (Università degli Studi di Torino); the University of Puerto Rico at Humacao; Keele University and the University of Washington have computer laboratories named after Turing.

The Open University, Oxford Brookes University and Aarhus University all have buildings named after Turing.

Alan Turing Road in the Surrey Research Park and the Alan Turing Way, part of the Manchester inner ring road are named after Alan Turing. Carnegie Mellon University has a granite bench, situated in the Hornbostel Mall, with the name "A. M. Turing" carved across the top, "Read" down the left leg, and "Write" down the other. The University of Oregon has a bust of Turing on the side of Deschutes Hall, the computer science building.

The École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne has a road and a square named after Alan Turing (Chemin de Alan Turing and Place de Alan Turing). The Faculty of Informatics and Information Technologies Slovak University of Technology in Bratislava, Slovakia, has a lecture room named "Turing Auditorium".

The Paris Diderot University has a lecture room named "Amphithéâtre Turing".The Faculty of Mathematics and Computer Science at the University of Würzburg has a lecture hall named "Turing Hörsaal".The Paul Sabatier University in Toulouse has a lecture room named "Amphithéâtre Turing" The largest conference hall at the Amsterdam Science Park is named Turingzaal.

King's College London's School of Natural and Mathematical Sciences awards the Alan Turing Centenary Prize.

The University of Kent named the Turing College after him at their Canterbury campus.

The campus of the École polytechnique has a building named after Alan Turing; it is a research center whose premises are shared by the École Polytechnique, the INRIA and Microsoft.

The University of Toronto developed the Turing programming language in 1982, named after Alan Turing.

The Faculty of Exact Sciences at the University of Buenos Aires has a computer laboratory named after Alan Turing.

In 2012 the hundredth anniversary of Turing’s birth, an international year of scientific conferences and events was observed. In the UK, a postage stamp was issued in his honor, and the Olympic torch was relayed past his statue in Manchester.

Turing’s life and work have been the subject of songs, choral works, plays, an opera, television programs, and movies. He has been listed as one of the 100 most important people of the 20th century.

Nearly all of these honors have come, however, in the last twenty years.

Official secrets laws kept Turing’s work unknown to the public for many years after his death, and that  secrecy was also a useful cover for those keen to suppress how Turing died.

Turing was arrested in 1952 for having an affair with another man. He was charged with gross indecency under the same 1885 law that felled Oscar Wilde. A plea bargain Turing’s brother and lawyer maneuvered him into kept him out of prison, but required him to undergo what became known as “chemical castration,” an injection process that rendered him impotent and then, more embarrassingly, caused him to grow female breasts.

Turing lost his security clearance and access to his government work and was denied entry to the United States as a security risk.

Alan Turing killed himself two years later.

Thirteen years later, Parliament decriminalized homosexuality.

Fifty-five years later, thirty thousand people signed a petition to the UK government to restore Turing’s good name. The Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, issued an apology for the government.

Forty-seven years after Turing died, thirty-seven thousand people signed a petition calling for a pardon for Turing.

Lord McNally, the UK’s Justice Minister, opposed the request:

A posthumous pardon was not considered appropriate as Alan Turing was properly convicted of what at the time was a criminal offence. He would have known that his offence was against the law and that he would be prosecuted. It is tragic that Alan Turing was convicted of an offence that now seems both cruel and absurd—particularly poignant given his outstanding contribution to the war effort. However, the law at the time required a prosecution and, as such, long-standing policy has been to accept that such convictions took place and, rather than trying to alter the historical context and to put right what cannot be put right, ensure instead that we never again return to those times.

Notwithstanding that tepid response, Parliament took up a bill to pardon Turing. The government asked the Queen to intervene, and at the end of 2013, she issued a royal pardon to Turing. It took effect in 2014, fifty-nine years after he died.

Left unpardoned to this day was the man arrested with Turing, as were tens of thousands of others arrested and convicted up to 1967.

Above: Governor Pat McCrory, beset by homosexual inventions

Sixty-two years after Turing’s death, the North Carolina General Assembly became the first of several state legislatures to legalize statewide discrimination based on sexual orientation, and prohibiting local government from trying to prevent it. Were Tuning alive and using a public restroom today, he'd be subject to arrest for trespassing on orders of Governor Pat McCrory. A man with female breasts in a men’s room must be up to something even if it is just complying with a court order.

It would be legal for the University of North Carolina to refuse to hire Turing for being gay (his was “a lifestyle” the University president refuses to talk about), or to fire him for the same reason. It would be legal to refuse to sell or rent him a place to live, to serve him in a hotel or restaurant, or to eject him from any of those places.

Two days ago the Republican candidate for president hosted a gathering of evangelical leaders whose number included those who have called for the execution of all LGBT Americans; failing that, the deportation of all LGBT people in America; failing that, the repeal of what few legal rights they enjoy. The candidate as sworn to undo hundreds of thousands of valid marriages, and to make America great again in the mold of the 1950s, when Alan Turing was not allowed to enter the country because he was gay.

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