October 20, 2010

Setting the Record Queer: Alan Turing

From xkcd by Randall Munrow.

Alan Turing was, arguably, one of the most influential queers of the Twentieth Century. Without his work on mathematics and computer science, modern computers would not be nearly as sophisticated or advanced as they are today. His Turing test, while heavily criticized and controversial, is still used as a measure of the Artificial Intelligence of computing devices. His first lover was Christopher Morcom. Morcom's untimely death lead Turing on a lifelong quest to better understand the human mind, specifically, the nature of consciousness and how human mind could survive death.

Turing also worked as a code breaker during World War II for the Allies. He was so successful, that historians claim that Turing's work on breaking German Codes most likely helped shorten the war in Europe.

Turing's life was ultimately tragic. In 1952, he was convicted of "homosexual acts", which were illegal in England at the time. His punishment consisted of chemical castration, whereby he was forced to take female hormones in order to "cure" him. He died on June 23rd, from poisoning resulting from eating a cyanide laced apple. Turing most likely committed suicide, although his family denies that he would have tried to kill himself, instead claiming that the incident was accidental.

At the time of Turing's conviction, he was unable to discuss his work as a Code breaker as it was highly classified at the time. Thus, he was unable to even bring up in court, his pivotal role in World War II. The irony here, should not be lost on anyone.

Recently, I wrote about the Nazi persecution of queers during World War II. It is easy enough to condemn the Nazis for their persecution of many different populations. Even harder to do, is to face the hypocrisy that exists in our own culture. The Bible tells us, "Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye." Mathew 7:5

I could draw further parallels, to what is going on in today's political climate, but I'll leave those to readers imagination.

Queers in History by Keith Stern
Alan Turing, Wikipedia

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