The Imitation Game, up for eight Academy Awards on Sunday, gave us a glimpse into the life of Alan Turing, a codebreaker who helped turn the tide of World War II for the Allies. Turing (pictured above) was a gay man who left the world a better place, but like so many LGBT heroes, he was forced to live a closeted life that denied him the full pleasure of his achievements and success. While Turing is now finally getting his due — last year, the Queen of England officially pardoned him, lifting his 1952 conviction for homosexuality — there are others like him worthy of recognition.
George Washington Carver was born into slavery in southwestern Missouri during the Civil War. A sickly child, Carver threw himself into education and was admitted to Iowa's Simpson College as the only African-American student, eventually joining the faculty after graduating. He would then head the agriculture department at Tuskegee University, where he devised agricultural innovations, including new uses for peanuts and sweet potatoes, including oil, flour, and ink. His work paved the way for modern advances in biofuels and cleaning products. Gay rumors followed Carver at Tuskegee, which were not dispelled when he and his research assistant, Austin Wingate Curtis, Jr., began living together. Curtis worked hard after Carver's death to preserve his companion's legacy.
Oliver Sipple, a highly decorated U.S. Marine and Vietnam War Veteran, saved President Gerald Ford’s life during a 1975 assassination attempt in San Francisco. Sipple was among thousands waiting to catch a glimpse of Ford and noticed the woman next to him had drawn a gun and was pointing it at the president. His quick lunge at the woman saved Ford's life. Sipple was quickly thrust into the media spotlight and despite his request that his homosexuality remain a secret, he was outed by the San Francisco Chronicle. Sipple sued the newspaper for invasion of privacy, but the Chronicle eventually won the drawn-out legal battle. After the assassination attempt, Ford merely sent Sipple a thank-you letter, but the president would later contend a White House invitation was not witheld because Sipple was gay. Sipple, sick and nearly penniless, died of pneumonia in 1989 at age 47.
Known as the founder of modern nursing, Nightingale trained and managed British nurses caring for soldiers in the Crimean War. She laid the foundation for the modern profession with her establishment of the nursing school at St. Thomas’ Hospital in London. While it was never confirmed by Nightingale that she was in fact a lesbian, she refused marriage proposals from men and made it known she preferred the company of women. This quote is attributed to Nightingale: “I have lived and slept in the same beds with English Countesses and Prussian farm women. No woman has excited passions among women more than I have.”