Did Alan Turing do anything wrong in his life?

Did Alan Turing do anything wrong in his life?

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  1. If one considers shortening the war in Europe by an estimated 2 years and saving an estimated 14 million lives – yes, you read that correctly, 14 million lives , then he was a wrong ‘un, alright?
    His commitment and dedication in helping to crack the Enigma Code apparently was less of an issue than his sexuality.
    RIP Alan Turing.

  2. We’re all human, and nobody is perfect.
    Alan Truring was an exceptional man, he never fired a shot in anger, but his contribution to the allied war effort was immeasurable.
    Alan was homosexual, which these days is neither here nor there, but until the 1960’s? It was a criminal offence.
    The way he was treated after the war was nothing short of disgraceful.
    Despite what he had done during the war, he was stripped of his security clearance, who knows what else he could have achieved had he just been left to do his job.
    Instead he was persecuted, and eventually took his own life.
    At the very least, he should have been given a knighthood, these days they’re given out just because someone can hit a ball or run fast.
    He will be the face on the back of the new £50 note, but it’s far too little, and far too late.
    R.I.P Alan

  3. There is one incident that I found quite alarming. It’s mentioned in Andrew Hodges’ “Alan Turing – The Enigma”.
    Just before the war, Turing and his friend Fred Clayton decided to sponsor two Austrian-Jewish boy refugees. Turing sponsored a boy called Robert Augenfeld. He secured him a funded place at an English public school.
    In September 1940, Turing took “Bob” on holiday with him. During the course of this holiday, Turing made a “gentle sexual advance” (Hodges’ words) on the boy. Augenfeld firmly rebuffed the approach, and in fairness Turing did not persist. In fact the incident did not seem to damage their friendship; Robert wasn’t interested, and there was an end to it. However, isn’t there something rather creepy about a man in his twenties making a pass at a schoolboy, and particularly one who must have felt he was in his debt?
    This incident is not often mentioned, perhaps because of Turing’s status as a gay martyr. It seems at best ill-judged, and perhaps prefigures the extraordinarily naïve behaviour that led to his arrest in 1952.

  4. Wrong as in evil, probably not. He was a profoundly weird man who was almost certainly very autistic, but his sexual adventures all involved what we would consider adults (18 and up), and I’ve never heard anything against him.
    Wrong as in incorrect, yes. The idea that he committed suicide is almost certainly false. The coroner just assumed he killed himself because he was sure all gay men were feeble hysterics, but in fact Turing seems to have found the whole affair of the court-case rather funny. He was much too autistic to be upset by perceived public humiliation, and didn’t give a damn what people thought of him. The medical evidence suggests that he died because he accidentally inhaled fumes during an experiment a few hours before his death – he was known to have a very cavalier attitude to lab safety.
    If it was suicide, though, accounts by his friends say that the thing that was preying on his mind at the time was a bad reading he had had from a fortune teller at a fair, a few days before his death.

  5. I’m sure he did. Every human being has done something wrong at sometime in their life, and there is no reason to think that Alan Turing is an exception.
    Just because Turing was brilliant and made vast contributions to technology, and was done wrong because he was gay and people found out, are not reasons to think he was some sort of saint.
    No one is perfect and we all have done things that we shouldn’t be proud of. Turing shouldn’t be remembered as a man without fault, but as a man who made enormous contributions to humanity, and as a lesson for the rest of us not to persecute others for being different.

  6. Absolutely.
    Before I begin, I should make it astoundingly clear that Turing’s work during the war, and afterward, was instrumental to the success of the UK. Along with the other four Wicked Uncles, he not only shortened the war by years, and laid the foundations of SIGINT for the entire western world, but also advanced the science of digital computers and cryptanalysis enormously.
    But none of that means he was some kind of saint who could do no wrong.
    The affair that brought him to court was highlighted to the police by Turing himself. He’d done so because he was caught in a lie, and panicked.
    Murray, who was 21 years his junior, had already stolen from him, and Turing decided that he’d burgled him as well. Murray actually knew the burglar, but hadn’t broken into Turing’s flat himself. Turing decided to frame Murray by getting his fingerprints on a glass. Once Turing had the fingerprints, he took Murray to bed. Then, in the morning, he took the glass to the police, encouraging them to investigate Murray. His hope was that they’d ignore any accusations from Murray as being simple lies.
    The problem was that the police had already identified Murray’s friend, Harry. And Harry had duly been arrested and had a statement taken. The police started asking more pointed questions. Why was Turing trying to frame Murray?
    After Turing blurted out – under caution – that he and Murray were having an affair (one in which Murray was stealing from Turing, and Turing was willing to frame Murray), then this caused the police some problems. Essentially, they now had a formal record of Turing admitting being engaged in something that was (rightly or wrongly) illegal. It’s astoundingly likely that the authorities (including the GSC&C, the precursor to GCHQ, where he worked) knew that Turing was gay – he’d made no desperate secret of it. So it’s unlikely that the authorities leapt up in shock at the revelation and burst into action. However, not only did they now have a formal record, they now had a case of a security-cleared person consorting with criminals – that’s generally frowned upon – including a case of potential blackmail.
    I suspect the combination meant that a prosecution had to proceed, and the result (never much in doubt, and Turing plead guilty) was that he was convicted – and again, I note that it was of a crime that rightly no longer exists.
    The attempts at chemical castration, forcing oestrogen on him (so he grew breasts), and so on were clearly wrong, but surprisingly don’t seem to have bothered him. But the loss of his security clearance seems to have hit him badly. For a man who had done so much for the country, and who had dedicated a large portion of his working life to that aim, it must have been a serious blow.
    This case is, by its nature, well documented. Aspects of this case would still be illegal today – most notably, trying to frame Murray. It’s not even clear there are no aspects to the affair itself that are above blame, given that Murray was 19, unemployed, and the 40-year-old Turing was suggesting he could get him a well-paid job.
    There are also other cases of concern – in his twenties, he’d made advances toward school children. During the war, a police investigation into molesting schoolboys at Bedford station was stopped as suspicion fell on Turing (note that he might well have been innocent and the investigation simply risked exposing Bletchley Park’s secrets, of course). These are, almost by definition, less well documented. But there is enough to suggest that Turing’s personal life was pretty dodgy, and his sexual preferences were for much younger men, or even boys.
    The idea doesn’t sit well with many people, quite understandably. It does not fit comfortably with the story of someone who did so much for this country and society as a whole, and who was undoubtedly treated very badly by the very country he dedicated much of his career to.
    It is quite right that Turing was pardoned for a crime that shouldn’t have been on the statute books. It is fitting that such a hero of this country should have given his name to a more general law doing the same for all such convictions. But be very wary of believing that he should be a icon for the gay community.

  7. He helped cracked German secret codes during WWII with his Turing machine, which eventually became the ancestors of modern computers. I say this makes Alan Turing a pretty damn good man. He helped, indirectly, to defeat the Nazi’s. How much more noble a man can one hope to be? Now this is not to say he never did anything wrong… he was only human. We all make mistakes.

    Did Alan Turing do anything wrong in his life?

    One thing is for sure though, Turing did not deserve the fate he got. See on top of a genius, he was also homosexual. And, when this was discovered by the higher-ups, he was persecuted in 1952 for ‘gross indecency’. He could choose between a sentence in jail, or chemical castration. Wanting to continue his work, which he lived for, he chose chemical castration.
    Was Alan Turing a sweet-natured, lovely, kind-hearted man? I’m not sure. I’ve heard he could be a demanding boss. He worked himself nearly to death, his work was everything to him. He would likewise expect the same dedication from those who worked for him, and some found this hard. But he wasn’t a bad guy by anyone’s metric. His only ‘sin’ was enjoying the company of men.
    I’ve seen a movie about his life, in which Turing is played by Benedict Cumberbatch. In it, he comes across as quite a douchebag. But then again, for some reason, most of the roles of Cumberbatch have him play his characters in a bit of a douchy way. Maybe it’s just his style, maybe it was the script. Some of Turing’s family members who knew him spoke out, though, and said he was a lot friendlier in person than portrayed. So the court’s not out on this one.

    Did Alan Turing do anything wrong in his life?

    Either way, the hormones he was forced to take made him feel absolutely miserable. They took away his sexual desire, his masculinity, his ability to function sexually… Turing felt betrayed by his country, a country he had dedicated his life to serve, a country he had helped to win the war… and now, because he was a gay man, he had his body and his mental and physical health ruined.
    The only reason he was ‘caught’ in the first place, by the way, was due to a burglary. When questioned by the police, Turing told them he suspected a certain fellow from being the one who broke in. A fellow he knew because he slept with him… he wasn’t ashamed or anything. He was just being honest. Instead of being helped by the police, he was just screwed over badly. Because he was ‘defective’. Imagine that, you help to defeat Hitler and his goons only to be given a treatment eerily similar to that of many German homosexuals in the war…

    Did Alan Turing do anything wrong in his life?

    Alan Turing underwent regular estrogen injections for two years as ordered by the court. But by 1954 he had become so depressed he decided to commit suicide… he bit into an apple laced in cyanide. It was found next to his dead body. It was determined he had passed away about a day prior, but it took a while for him to be found. He was only 42 years old.
    Alan Turing helped to defeat the Nazis. He helped to invent one of the earliest prototypes of what we now know as the computer. A truly brilliant man who dedicated many years of his life to serving his country. Only to be injected with female hormones and driven to suicide by that same country. Only in 2013, nearly sixty years after his passing, did Turing get pardoned for his ‘crime’.


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