Alan Turing, widely considered to be the father of computer science and artificial intelligence, won't be receiving a posthumous pardon for his 1952 conviction of "gross indecency," iProgrammer reported on Monday. A petition for his pardon was signed by more than 21,000 people and submitted to the UK government.
Minister of State Lord McNally responded for the government regarding the pardoning of Turing with the following:
The question of granting a posthumous pardon to Mr Turing was considered by the previous Government in 2009.
As a result of the previous campaign, the then Prime Minister Gordon Brown issued an unequivocal posthumous apology to Mr Turing on behalf of the Government, describing his treatment as "horrifying" and "utterly unfair". Mr Brown said the country owed him a huge debt. This apology was also shown at the end of the Channel 4 documentary celebrating Mr Turing's life and achievements which was broadcast on 21 November 2011.
A posthumous pardon was not considered appropriate as Alan Turing was properly convicted of what at the time was a criminal offence. He would have known that his offence was against the law and that he would be prosecuted.
It is tragic that Alan Turing was convicted of an offence which now seems both cruel and absurd-particularly poignant given his outstanding contribution to the war effort. However, the law at the time required a prosecution and, as such, long-standing policy has been to accept that such convictions took place and, rather than trying to alter the historical context and to put right what cannot be put right, ensure instead that we never again return to those times.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, on behalf of the British government, had made an official public apology on September 10, 2009 for Turing's treatment following World War II. This apology was the result of a previous petition, which was organized by computer security expert and author John Graham-Cumming. Graham-Cumming, however, disagreed with the more recent petition for a pardon for Alan Turing.
Though Turing's contributions to Britain's wartime codebreaking efforts and modern computing were significant, he was convicted of "gross indecency" in 1952 for his homosexuality, which was illegal in the United Kingdom at the time. Following his conviction, Turing accepted chemical castration in lieu of prison, and his security clearance was withdrawn. As a result, he was unable to continue his work for GCHQ, one of Britain's intelligence agencies. Turing died two years later, just over two weeks before his 42nd birthday, in what was determined to be a suicide.