Father of the theoretical computer science and artificial intelligence, Alan Turing, received Royal Pardon on Christmas Eve. The man who may have saved millions of lives.
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Alan Turing was a British mathematician, computer scientist, logician, and cryptanalyst. His most known work was formalisation of the concepts of computation and algorithm. Alan used the Turing machine which is widely considered to be a model of a general purpose computer.
During World War II, Turing worked for the Government Code and Cypher School, Britain’s codebreaking centre where he led Hut 8 section. This same section was responsible for breaking the Enigma’s code which saved thousands of lives.
After the war, Turing first worked at the National Physical Laboratory where he designed one of the first stored-program computers known as ACE. His theory was the first that allowed a single machine could perform the functions of many, same as today’s computers.
He then went to Max Newman’s Computing Laboratory at Manchester University. There he assisted the development of Manchester computers and gained interest in mathematical biology.
Alan Turing wrote a paper on the chemical basis of morphogenesis, and also predicted oscillating chemical reactions such as the Belusov-Zhabotinsky reaction. Some of his more fundamental work on codebreaking was only released to public scrutiny in April 2012. These papers showed work of Turing, and those who worked at Bletchley Park, on cracking a secret code used by Nazi government.
The reason why they only released the papers last year was that they wanted to “squeeze the juice” first. Several other works of this genius are still being worked on, but what everyone agrees about is that Alan Turing was an exceptional man.
"Alan Turing was a remarkable man who played a key role in saving this country in World War II by cracking the German Enigma code," said Mr Cameron.
Turing was charged for a crime of homosexuality in 1952, back then it was illegal to be a homosexual, not just in the UK but in most western countries. He was given a choice between chemical castration and a prison. He accepted chemical castration and was given a treatment with female hormones.
Less than two years later Alan died from cyanide poisoning. An inquest determined it was a suicide, but many still believe his death was an accident.
In May 2012, the process of giving Turing a statutory pardon began with a private member’s bill being put before the House of Lords. It was followed by the government opting for a posthumous pardon under the royal prerogative of mercy. Signed on December 24, 2013 the Royal Pardon was effective immediately.
The pardon is a victory not just for Alan Turing, but for all the supporters with Stephen Hawking been one of the strongest one. Supporters are still not completely happy as the pardon was rejected by the government last year. Pardons are normally only granted in Britain when the person is innocent of the crime and when it has been requested by someone with a vested interest, for example a family member.
Turing received a pardon despite neither of the mentioned conditions have been met. The man who saved millions of lives and in the end took his own.
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