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Sherborne School / AFP – Getty Images file
Alan Turing at 16 as a student at the Sherborne School in Dorset in 1928.
Queen Elizabeth II granted a rare “mercy pardon” Monday to Alan Turing, the computing and mathematics pioneer whose chemical castration for being gay drove him to suicide almost 60 years ago.
Turing was one of the leading scientific geniuses of the 20th century — the man who cracked the supposedly uncrackable Enigma code used by Nazi Germany in World War II and the man many scholars consider the father of modern computer science.
By the time he was 23, Turing had hypothesized what would become today’s computers — the Turing machine, which could emulate any computing device or program. Almost 80 years later, Turing machines are still used in theoretical computation.
In 1950, Turing came up with the famous Turing Test to determine whether a computer can be considered to have attained artificial intelligence.
But Turing was also gay at a time when that was a crime in Britain, and instead of being hailed as one of the crucial figures in defeating the Nazis, he was convicted of “gross indecency” in 1952 for having had sex with a man.
His security clearance was revoked, he was barred from working for the government and he was chemically castrated with massive injections of female hormones. Less than two years later, in 1954, he killed himself with cyanide, an inquest found. He was just 41 years old.
In recent decades, as Turing’s ideas and work have come to be recognized as the foundations of today’s technology-driven world, scientists and technology leaders lobbied for him to be pardoned.
In 2009, the British government issued a posthumous apology, but scientists and gay-rights advocates wanted the government to clear him completely of the gross indecency conviction. More than 37,000 people — many of them eminent scientists, led by Stephen Hawking — signed a petition last year urging Elizabeth to remove the scar from the name of “one of the most brilliant mathematicians of the modern era.”
In his book “God Created the Integers,” Hawking counted Turing among the most important mathematicians in history, alongside Euclid, Kurt Gödel and Bernard Riemann.
In a decree dated Tuesday but released Monday by Justice Minister Chris Grayling, Elizabeth said she was “Graciously pleased to extend Our Grace and Mercy unto the said Alan Mathison Turing and to grant him Our Free Pardon posthumously in respect of the said convictions.”
In a statement, British Prime Minister David Cameron said Turing “saved countless lives” and “played a key role in saving this country in World War II by cracking the German Enigma code.”
In a statement of his own, Grayling declared, “A pardon from the Queen is a fitting tribute to an exceptional man.”
Happy 100th birthday, Alan Turing
The revelation marked the first time that a member of the British royal family has been hacked by the Murdoch media empire, which already has acknowledged tapping into phone calls of royal aides.
On Thursday, a London jury heard transcripts of 2006 voicemails left for the former Kate Middleton by Prince William as they dated. In those intercepted messages, the future king of England called his sweetheart pet names like “baby” and “babykins” and recounted how he nearly got “shot” (with blanks) during a military training exercise, according to court reporting by Central News UK.
“Hi baby, it’s me,” one message from the prince begins. William then details an evening navigation exercise at the Sandhurst Royal Military Academy, during which, he admits, he got “horribly lost.”
“I walked into some other regiment’s ambush, which was slightly embarrassing because I nearly got shot,” he said. “Not by live rounds but by blank rounds, which would be very embarrassing.”
The voicemail transcripts were read in court by prosecutors during the trial of numerous News of the World editors accused of phone hacking and other offenses while working for the since-defunct newspaper owned by media mogul Rupert Murdoch.
The voicemails belonged to royal correspondent Clive Goodman, who is on trial with editors Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks, managing editor Stuart Kuttner and several others. All deny charges that they conspired to illegally intercept voicemails from various cell phones during reporting efforts.
Goodman, Coulson, and Brooks are also accused of corrupting public officials.
LONDON – British police have found “no credible evidence” to reopen investigations into the deaths of Diana, Princess of Wales, and her friend Dodi Fayed in a Paris road crash in 1997, Sky News reported late on Monday.
Media reports at the time said the MET had been passed allegations that a member of the British military had caused the deaths.
“There is no credible or relevant evidence to support a theory that such claims had any basis in fact,” Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley said in a letter that the British broadcaster said it had seen. Rowley added that the MET would not reopen any criminal homicide investigation or refer the matter back to the coroner.
Dodi’s father, Mohamed Al Fayed, the former owner of Harrods department store, said in 2008 that for the sake of Diana’s sons William and Harry, he was dropping his 10-year campaign to prove the couple were killed on the orders of the British establishment.
A royal spokesman said there would be no comment.
Jewelry and precious items owned by the late British King Edward VIII and his American wife Wallis Simpson sold for more than $1.01 million at auction on Thursday, significantly more than expected.
The chairman of Sotheby’s jewelry division in Europe and the Middle East, David Bennett, said the collection owned by the Duke and Duchess of Windsor shed light on “the greatest love story of the 20th century”.
Edward abdicated after 11 months on the throne in 1936 to marry Simpson, a twice-divorced American socialite, for whom he publicly declared his love. He was succeeded by his younger brother, George VI, father to Queen Elizabeth.
Their relationship threatened to provoke a constitutional crisis in Britain, where Edward was head of the Church of England, which did not permit the remarriage of divorced people whose spouses were still alive.
The 30-piece collection, which included a Cartier sapphire bracelet, a gem-studded choker, cufflinks, watches and a signed silver cigarette case, sold for 620,125 pounds to buyers from all over the world.
The highest estimate for the lot was around 500,000 pounds.
Sotheby’s said Simpson, who died in 1986 aged 89, was “the epitome of elegance and sophistication for her generation and beyond”.
A larger set of jewels owned by Simpson was sold by Sotheby’s in 1987 for around 31 million pounds, the most valuable single-owner jewelry sale for roughly a quarter of a century