The Gay that Saved the World

Alan Turing was born in the summer of 1912 in London, England.  Alan was a small child and showed early signs of genius.  Although like many future world changers, his teachers neglected his insight and attempted to make him confirm to their standards and curriculum.  This resulted in Alan being bored of the lectures, which mostly consisted of latin, greek and literature, not much math or science.  As intelligent as he was, he actually received bad grades and was overall a mediocre student. So Alan took it to himself to start learning these subjects on his own.  Often spending his free time reading and practicing math formulas. Upon high school graduation in 1931, Alan then enrolled at The University of Cambridge to study mathematics.  At college Turing did not keep his sexuality a secret amongst his circle of close friends.  Though at the time it homosexuality was still illegal under British law, his close friends were accepting and weren’t bothered by his preferences.  One of Turing’s biggest accomplishments during his time at Cambridge was his research into “Probability Theory” which is a division of mathematics that has to do with quantities and random distributions.  Post completion of his undergraduate, Turing moved to New Jersey and enrolled at Princeton University for his Masters degree. Upon completion in 1938 he moved back to England and began working for the Government Code and Cypher School. 

As the Second World War started to break out in 1939, Turing and his team was moved to another government facility in Bletchley Park.  This is where Turing would eventually go on to “save the world”.  Turing and his team spent the next three years developing a system to crack the German coded Enigma. The Enigma was a German machine and encryption device used to send secure and private messages. The machine scrambles the 26 letters of the alphabet and can be reprogramed daily to have a new code or algorithm.  So the germans had to constantly keep updating which code was being used that day.  The Enigma device was used in military operations and intelligence, coordinating attacks, bombings, and delivering top secret information.  Obviously, the messages being passed through the Enigma would be valuable to the British and other Allied forces. 

Alan and his team worked tirelessly on learning how to crack the German code and be able to understand the secret messages being passed through the German ranks.  Turing invented a machine called the “Bombe”.  This helped the code breakers immensely and essentially helped them uncover some of the daily coding in the Enigma.  However, it want enough and the code wasn’t fully cracked.  They were getting good information but the Germans secret platform was still operating at capacity and able to carry out secret messages.  Luckily in 1942 Turing had a breakthrough. Turing developed the “Turingery” method of reading code through a complicated three step process.  This method as developed by Alan was successfully transmitting and deciphering the German code.  The Allies were now receiving information about the Germans plans and had an advantage on the operational end.  Turings efforts proved beyond valuable for the Allies and the tides of War begin to change. 

During this time working on cracking the code, Turing proposed and plan to marry a female and colleague, Joan Clarke.  His engagement to Joan was short lived, as he soon admitted his sexuality.  Joan was actually unfazed and did not react in a harmful matter, in fact she accepted it and was grateful for their friendship.  After the war ended Alan moved to Hampton, London and started working on a design for a new computer system. He also started teaching and doing research in the  Mathematics department at the University of Manchester. He worked on the theory of artificial intelligence before it became a big thing and even helped in developing a computer program that could play chess and beat a human. 

In 1952 at 40 years old, Turing began seeing another man and forming a romantic relationship with him.  Turing’s house was burglarized and Turing reported the crime to the police.  Through the investigation process the police uncovered the same sex relationship and that the couple was living together.  Under United Kingdom law homosexual acts were still illegal and punishable.  Both Alan and his partner were charged with “gross indecency” and trials were scheduled.  Turing was convicted and given two options, he could face imprisonment or probation with a chemical castration.  He chose probation and therefore had to undergo hormonal treatment which would drastically reduce his libido and create a synthetic oestrogen which resulted in breast tissue forming in his chest. 

Turing was stripped of his security clearance at the Government Communications Headquarters and British Intelligence agencies.  After all the work he did for the British government and allied forces, after cracking an impossible code and potentially reversing the tides of war, this is how he was repaid.  His chemical castration let him into a state of manic depression and illness, he didn’t feel normal and his body’s natural hormones remained in an unbalanced state.  At the age of 41 he was found dead in his home by suicide, a cyanide filled apple lying on the bed stand next to him.  All because he was gay in a time that wasn’t accepting, the founder of artificial intelligence and pioneer of computer software was dead. If you're reading this on a device invented by Steve Jobs, look at the back for the logo.

 

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