By Neal Broverman
Originally published on Advocate.com September 01 2009 2:05 PM ET
Alan Turing was a mathematical genius whose work breaking German codes for the British during World War II contributed to the eventual Allied victory. But Turing was never knighted by the queen; instead he was subjected to a chemical castration when he was found guilty of "gross indecency" for having a gay relationship. He killed himself in 1954 at age 41, two years after that procedure.
More than a half-century later, Britons are clamoring for their government to publicly apologize for its treatment of Turing. Over 19,000 people have added their names to a petition on a U.K. government website since it opened three weeks ago, urging the government to "recognize the tragic consequences of prejudice that ended this man's life and career."
The effort to honor Turing is being headed up by computer scientist John Graham-Cumming, who feels Turing should be remembered and honored as a British hero, CNN reports. Turing invented a code-breaking machine that deciphered messages encoded by Germans -- the messages supplied the British and Americans with crucial military information. The young genius also developed the Turing machine, a mathematical theory that still resonates today, especially in the field of computer science.
But all those accomplishments were overshadowed by the discovery of Turing's gay life. To avoid a custodial sentence following his conviction, Turing agreed to undergo a castration, a procedure that included being injected with estrogen. It's widely believed the experience led to his suicide.
So far, Graham-Cumming has not heard from the British government about the status of the apology, nor anything from Queen Elizabeth II, to whom Graham-Cumming wrote requesting a posthumous knighthood for the mathematician.