I've long been a fan of Alan Turing, even writing a big paper about his mistreatment my freshman year of college (talking about gay stuff was much more radical in 1987. I nearly cried while giving the oral report portion of the project). For those of you that don't know, Alan Turing not only invented what we now call computer science, but broke the German code which directly led to The Allies winning World War II. One man can really change the world.
During the war Turing's code-cracking skills were so invaluable that his homosexuality was ignored or tolerated by the British government. Sadly, after the war the his code-cracking skills were not as needed the government began persecuting him. This persecution lead to his apparent suicide.
Recently John Graham-Cumming began a petition campaign to ask the UK government for a formal apology for their treatment of Alan Turing.
Last week Gordon Brown issued a formal apology. Read Gordon Brown's statement in its entirety.
Amazingly enough, one of Alan Turing's most brilliant and enduring work was the creation of a an unbiased test for artificial intelligence (now called "The Turing Test"). The break-through of this test is that it creates an environment where we can only see the intelligence of a person (or computer). As a side-effect, we do not see their race, color, gender, or sexual orientation. Could it be that his inspiration for this test was driven by his desire for a world where people were not persecuted for such things? Read John Graham-Cumming's beautiful article about this ironic twist.
For an "insider view" of the process of getting the apology read John's article about when Gordon Brown called him to say that the apology was about to happen. John deserves a lot of credit for this work. He didn't have a huge staff of people. He didn't have a PR agency. He only had the internet and a blog. One man can really change the world.
Thank you John!