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News flash: British government apologizes to Alan Turing

See this news release and this NY Times article

For those not familiar with the name, Alan Turing was one of the founders of the field of computer science. Years before there were any actual computers, he developed a theoretical model of what a computer might be (the "Turing machine") and proved, among other things, that it was possible to write a single program for it (the "Universal Turing machine") that would interpret and execute other Turing-machine programs. His theoretical model turned out, surprisingly, to be equivalent to several other, completely different models of computation: Post production rules, Church's lambda-calculus, Chomsky unrestricted grammars, etc. but Turing's is the one that most closely resembles the real computers that were eventually built.

ETA: Turing also originated the "Turing test", a broadly-recognized criterion for what "artificial intelligence" should mean.

Most famously outside the field, he became a national hero for leading the effort to break the German government's Enigma code system, thus saving countless lives from U-boat attacks.

After World War II, this war hero was convicted of "gross indecency" (i.e. homosexuality), stripped of his security clearances, and offered the choice of prison or "chemical castration" -- taking female hormones for the rest of his life. Which may not be so bad if you're a menopausal woman, but if you're a 39-year-old man, it kinda sucks. The side effects are widely believed to have led him to commit suicide in 1954.

It is left as an exercise for the reader to decide what an "apology" means when made to someone who is dead, on behalf of people who are dead, who were enforcing laws that are no longer in effect.

Comments

Admitting they were wrong is more than most governments seem able to do!
Too true.
About bloody time. I've always felt so sorry for that poor man.