Anyone with even a passing interesting in AI or robotics knows who Alan Turing is. Sometimes referred to as the “father of AI, Turing was interested in the question of “intelligent machinery” as early 1941. he helped secure an allied victory in World War II with his cryptanalysis of the German Enigma. But among roboticists, he’s known for his work on the halting problem, the Turing machine, the Church-Turing thesis, the Turing Test, the Automatic Computing Engine, not to mention the Turing Award, which is named in his honor. Equally well known, are his persecution, legal prosecution, and forced chemical castration by the British government, whose treatment of him is believed to have lead directly to his suicide in 1954. While too late to help Turing, there is good news from the UK, where British prime minister Gordon Brown has officially apologized:
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. Alan and the many thousands of other gay men who were convicted as he was convicted under homophobic laws were treated terribly. Over the years millions more lived in fear of conviction.
The apology was the result of a petition with over 30,000 signers started by British free software programmer John Graham-Cumming. If you’d like to help preserve Turing’s memory, how about a contribution to Bletchley Park Trust? CC-licensed Photo of slate Alan Turing sculpture at Bletchley Park by flickr user blinkenlichts