CommunityMy FDL

Watercooler: Turing

Hi, y’all.

I think it’s important for Firedoglake to briefly observe last Saturday’s milestone: the 100th birthday of Alan Turing, one of the great pioneers of computing. Turing was born on June 23, 1912 and died on June 7, 1954. He developed key concepts in computer science like the algorithm, around which our high-tech lives are built today.

The timing is appropriate, with Pride events in many cities this past weekend, to reflect not just on Turing’s contributions to computer science but his treatment as a gay man. When he reported a robbery by a man with whom he’d had a sexual relationship, the British Government convicted him of gross indecency and forced him to take a series of injections as a form of chemical castration. FDL’s Teddy Partridge wroting movingly in 2009 of the successful campaign to obtain a governmental apology for Turing’s treatment.

Until recently, most accepted the coroner’s ruling that Turing, who died of cyanide poisoning, committed suicide. A BBC News article published Saturday creates some doubt. Professor Jack Copeland, a Turing expert, believes that his death may have been accidental rather then deliberate, the result of careless experimentation with electroplating using potassium cyanide.

The problem, he complains, is that the investigation was conducted so poorly that even murder cannot be ruled out. An “open verdict,” recognising this degree of ignorance, would be his preferred position.

None of this excuses the treatment of Turing during his final years, says Prof Copeland.

“Turing was hounded,” he told the BBC, adding: “Yet he remained cheerful and humorous.”

One final note: I’ve recently revived the @MyFDL Twitter account.I tweet a selection of diaries from MyFDL, mostly those I promote to the front page along with a few other highlights subject to my discretion. Since I edit on weekdays, that’s when you’ll find it active. This is an experiment, but if you are on Twitter & want to get updates from MyFDL then please follow.

This is tonight’s open thread. What’s on your mind?

Previous post

FDL Movie Night: The Invisible War

Next post

More on Today's Arizona Immigration Ruling

Kit OConnell

Kit OConnell

Kit O’Connell is a gonzo journalist and radical troublemaker from Austin, Texas. He is the Associate Editor and Community Manager of Shadowproof. Kit's investigative journalism has appeared in Truthout, MintPress News and