Alan Turing: Gay Man who Saved the World yet Died in Disgrace

By Craig A. James | 19 November 2010
The Religion Virus

What do you do to a homosexual mathematician whose code-breaking genius saved the world during World War II? Not figuratively, but actually saved the world from Nazi domination? You put him on trial, of course! You convict him of gross indecency. You force him to choose prison or chemical castration. You strip him of all dignity and hound him until in shame and despair he swallows a cyanide pill and dies.

The story of Alan Turing is one of the most disgraceful episodes of modern civilization. A man who should have been a hero of the free world and idolized next to Einstein and Newton in the history books was instead hounded to death because of religion-inspired homophobia.

In World War II, Alan Turing’s genius at breaking Nazi secret codes was so successful that the Allies could have sunk almost every single U-boat and convoy that left Germany. Turing’s work was so good it was like cheating at cards: if you win every hand, the other players will quickly figure out that the game is rigged. The Allies had to employ all sorts of tricks to hide their success; if you want a fascinating account, I highly recommend Neal Stephenson’s semi-fictional Cryptonomicon, the story of the rise of modern cryptography.

Alan Turing literally saved the world from Nazi domination. Without his work, WWII would have ended very differently. The Nazi regime might have remained undefeated, still in control of Northern Europe and western Asia. The Japanese might have retained control of East Asia. Our world maps would look vastly different today. And even if we’d won the war, without Turing’s work it’s likely that millions more soldiers and civilians would have died in the fight.

And Turing’s work didn’t end with cryptography. Today he’s best known as the inventor of the modern digital computer, the one who laid down the mathematical foundation for all computer science. His name is even enshrined in two of the most important computer-science concepts, the Turing machine and the Turing test.

If Alan Turing hadn’t been homosexual, his name might be a household word like Einstein, Newton and Galileo. What home doesn’t have a computer? If you count the laptops, cell phones, digital TVs, iPods, digital cameras and microwave ovens in your home, I’ll bet you own more than a dozen computing devices. Every one of them works on the principles laid down by Alan Turing during WWII when he was trying to develop a computing machine to break the enemy’s codes even faster.

Turing’s fall from grace came at the hands of the religious commi-bashing right, the British equivalent of America’s McCarthyism. In 1952 a gay lover helped an accomplice rob Turing’s house. During the police investigation, it came out that Turing was a homosexual. He was arrested and convicted of gross indecency, and given a choice of prison or chemical castration. Turing choose castration.

On June 7, 1954, at just forty two years of age, Alan Mathison Turing killed himself by swallowing cyanide. One of the greatest minds in the history of humankind was lost forever, and one of the greatest heroes of World War II died in shame and disgrace.

But the real shame is on the rest of us, not Alan Turing. In spite of his sexual orientation and consequent hardships he must have experienced, he remained a true patriot and mathematician. He put his mind to work to save the very society that persecuted him. It is possible that he changed history and saved more lives than any other single person in the twentieth century.

On September 10, 2009, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown finally issued a public apology to Turing’s memory:

Thousands of people have come together to demand justice for Alan Turing and recognition of the appalling way he was treated. While Turing was dealt with under the law of the time and we can’t put the clock back, his treatment was of course utterly unfair and I am pleased to have the chance to say how deeply sorry I and we all are for what happened to him … So on behalf of the British government, and all those who live freely thanks to Alan’s work I am very proud to say: we’re sorry, you deserved so much better.

It is stories like Turing’s that keep me writing. It’s easy to have a live-and-let-live attitude toward the immoral “morality” of the Bible. It sounds nice to advocate tolerance and respect. But Alan Turing is dead, and the Bible is where it all started.

Reprinted with permission from the author.

Craig A. James is a writer, computer scientist, evolutionist, and movie producer. He lives in Southern California.

Alan Turing – Celebrating the life of a genius

The Enigma Machine Explained

The enigma of WWII codebreaker Alan Turing

Be sure to ‘like’ us on Facebook

126 COMMENTS

  1. Turing gave us so much, only to lose his own. Self-righteous people kill me! Nothing godly about what these overzealous Christians did to him.

  2. I had absolutely no knowledge of Turing or his matchless contribution to the life I live as an IT professional and ‘addict’ of technology.
    I am eternally grateful to live in a time when judgement on sexuality does not limit or destroy ascension to greatness.
    I am a proud Canadian. My nephew is an openly gay educator who has received national & global acclaim for his contributions to education!
    I cannot fathom what would have been lost had Mark been prohibited from living an authentic life & sharing the gifts God have him!
    Mr. Turing…I am forever indebted to you although I did not know of your amazing life & contribution before tonight!

  3. I love how we're painting this as a damn religious issue instead of pointing out how the medical industry has played a leading role in the conversion of LGBT+ people since the dawn of modern medicine. They continue to attempt to "cure" asexuals of their so-called sexual dysfunction. But sure, let's pretend the Church is the only predator of marginalized people and completely ignore the fact that medical science has pathologized everything from homosexuality to a woman's defiance of her husband. If Christians are brainwashed then so are you.

    • a point needs made well-made. i get sick of the holier than thou attitude, ironically, of atheists – and the fact that everyone assumes the right owns christianity

    • Morticon but it is a religious issue. Medical science does attempt to cure gay people. The attempt is made due to religious people claiming homosexuality is not normal and do.ething has to be done about it. Yet there are some Native American tribes where homosexuality was openly accepted. In these tribes when the men were out hunting and the women were out gathering food it was the homosexuals who watched the children. The Catholic church still condems gay people. We live a block away from a Cathlic Church where in the past 15 years two Priests have been removed for molesting young boys. These Priests are supposed to be teaching our children how to live by Gods word but they are the biggest hypocrites. Did these men get offered to go to jail or get medically castrated? Nope the Catholic church just kept moving them from one parish to another. They kept ruining more young boys lives while preaching if you practice homosexuality you will go to hell.

  4. Edward Burke stated, “This is why Islam is so dangerous to the western way of life. No tolerance for other faiths”. That is the epitome of ignorance & bigotry. Islam is not alone with this atrocious belief and behavior. He intentionally failed to include one of the oldest culprits, “Christianity”.

  5. I'm not trying to diminish Turing's great contribution to allied victory in WWII, but the claim in the article that Turing "actually saved the world from Nazi domination" simply isn't true. The gratest effort in the defeat of nazism was made by the USSR. If you just look at the number of soldiers involved at the eastern front, you will see that it makes western front look like some regional conflict. Roughly 80% of all German WWII loses were on the eastern front. For comparison, on several occasions, during large scale operations, both the Soviets and the Germans had more casualties in one day than US had during the entire WWII ! And it's not just the numbers that matter. Most military historians agree that there were three breaking points of WWII: stopping German advance towards Moscow, breaking the siege of Stalingrad, and battle of Kursk – all three happened on eastern front. Again, Turing's contribution was surely great, and until recently, almost completely neglected, but you've got to give credit where credit is due.

  6. I read this piece a couple of days ago. I never heard of him, but I did some research and found out this. Polish Cipher Bureau broke code first. Second Alan didn't break code by himself he had a lot of help from Bletchly Park. Third he was not arrested for being gay. He was arrested for sodomizing a minor. Alan was forty- yrs old. His supposed lover was just nineteen and law states must be twenty-one back then. So being with a minor and sodomy were both against the law back then. I also found out that burgerly was fake. Alan went to lover and told him I gonna have you arrested the boy was scared and crying so Alan gave the boy a glass of alcohol. They he had sexual relation with the boy again the boy left. Next day Alan took glass with fingerprints on it to police. Alan doesn't seem like such a victim to me but the boy does. If I read something I don't just believe it I go look for truth. Alan might of helped a little with WW2. I do know for a fact the Navajo Code Talkers did help the USA and saved thousand and thousands of human lives in WW2. Some of the code Talkers were just fifteen yrs old. They were honored with medals some fifty- six years later. Just think the schools used to wash their mouth out with soap for speaking their own language and here you got the government asking for their help by using their own language. Wow! Isn't that something. Remember don't just believe me look for yourself.

    • Joseph, your anti-religions comment above is just plain wrong. The reasons for all wars is not because of religion. For example:

      – World War 2 was not a religious war.
      – World War 1 was not a religious war.
      – the Vietnam war was not a religious war.
      – the Peloponnesian war was not a religious war.
      – and I could name here war after war not religious at cause.

      There are wars that are caused by religion, certainly, and I read recently a study of this very question. Depending on how we differentiate between battles discrete to related wars, the total amounts to between 6 – 10%. That is between 90 – 94% of wars are not religious in nature at all. So much for all wars being caused by religion, and so much for Lennon’s atheist anthem.

  7. And what you do with people who provided him with the first solution for Enigma, having cracked the code as early as in 1930-s?

    You don't talk about them

    Zygalski Rejewski Różycki
    Zygalski Rejewski Różycki
    Zygalski Rejewski Różycki

  8. what a fucked up Society we live in if Alan Turing was respected and honoured for all his brilliant work he dd we can only imagine what contributions he would have made to spite all the crap he had to endure he still worked on with his great work you cant but not love this man for all he did for humanity

Leave a Reply to James Braddock Cancel reply

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here