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.

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  1. It is not the fault of the Bible or any of the revealed books. It is the fault of those that choose to interpret these books to suit their needs. They should be condemned to have caused the death of a genius.

    • It is the fault of both the primitivity and immorality contained in the Bible and any of the revealed books of superstition and ignorance and the people who interpret them correctly. Religion is a negative memeplex that needs to be brought down. People who interpret these atrocious texts do not always come to the conclusion to suit their own needs, but do so because indoctrination plays a part in their childhood.

  2. Throughout history males with same-sex attraction have made astounding contributions. For most of history homosexual acts posed an unacceptable risk of death, so it really wasn’t morally objectionable. Same-sex attraction was not imagined to include use of the reproductive system. But that chqnged when medical treatments were developed to make it a sane option.
    Previous to that, the most humane methods available were employed to remedy the threat homosexuals posed to each other. But most males with same-sex attraction did not consider use of the reproductive system to be part of their relationships. It was only those who were discovered in acts that pose mortal danger to the participants who underwent corrective surgery to save both body and soul. But, due to the influence of the Catholic church and its controversial, revolutionary teaching that illness and disease are not caused by displeasure of the gods, but have natural causes, and can be treated and cured by rational methods, coupled to its position as inventer of hospitals, the university system and medical colleges, it has long been a principle of medical ethics that the government lacks authority to order medical procedures be performed on the innocent. So, homosexual acts were condemned on religious grounds..

    Since homosexual acts became a crime, a mandatory penalty could be imposed, which was castration, for the purpose of protecting citizens from themselves. When medical treatments were developed to remedy the myriad of deadly threats caused by homosexual acts, the Church abandoned its stance, and since has not adopted a replacement. It does teach that homosexuality is a grave evil, and that gay marriage is not recognized by the Church.
    Also, suicide is the responsibility of the victim. Yes, there was injustice done by the law. But the greatest injustice, by far, was done by Turing and those who later used him to advance a godless agenda.

    • What do you mean by your comment of mortal danger? I’m trying to figure out what you meant to try and figure out why Turing was given such an extreme sentence. Even back then his sentence would be out of the ordinary.

  3. Heterosexism is a virus. Homophobia is a virus. They come from prejudices, selfishness and arrogance of sitting pretty. This psychopathology is supported by abrahamic religions. They are the religions who were designed by heterosexual liar men who claimed that they had been in touch with god. It sounds so foolish but still maintained by the idiot majority. The time will fortunately eliminate the primates who are against the law of the jungle, who are against the facts of life. Heaven is here, but lgbt people never experinced that. So sad… And they are still tortured, punished with death sentence in 2020.

  4. He was a genius no doubt, and a hero for using his gifts to save so many lives, but there seems to be something missing. Chemical castrations, to my knowledge, have only ever been used to punish in extreme cases. Even back in the day, homosexuals were known about. I’m not saying they had it easy back then, but to my knowledge they weren’t chemically castrated on the regular. Why would anyone think he would warrant this type of punishment?

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