Gay British codebreaker Alan Turing given royal pardon

Benedict Cumberbatch in “The Imitation Game.”
A first look at Benedict Cumberbatch as scientist and World War II code breaker Dr. Alan Turing in Black Bear Pictures’ “The Imitation Game” set for release in late 2014.
(Jack English / Black Bear Pictures )

Dr. Alan Turing, the World War II-era British codebreaker who is often said to be the father of the modern computer, received a posthumous royal pardon Tuesday, close to 60 years after he committed suicide.

The pardon’s announcement comes during post-production of Black Bear Pictures’ “The Imitation Game.” StudioCanal will release the film in late 2014, film producer Teddy Schwarzman wrote in an email Tuesday.

Actor Benedict Cumberbatch portrays Turing, opposite Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode and Mark Strong. (The actor, seen recently as Khan in “Star Trek: Into Darkness” and as Wikileaks founder Julian Assange in “The Fifth Estate,” took a break from the title role in BBC One’s “Sherlock.”)

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Turing’s breaking of the Nazis’ Enigma encryption was pivotal, say historians, who credit the scientist’s work at Bletchley Park for shortening the war by at least two years.

But a 1952 conviction for homosexual activity stripped Turing of his security clearance. The mathematician opted for chemical castration to avoid prison time. Turing took his own life at 41.

“His later life was overshadowed by his conviction for homosexual activity, a sentence we would now consider unjust and discriminatory and which has now been repealed,” Justice Secretary Chris Gayling said in a news release. “Dr. Turing deserves to be remembered and recognized for his fantastic contribution to the war effort and his legacy to science. A pardon from the queen is a fitting tribute to an exceptional man.”

Over the last few years, an e-petition has garnered 34,000 signatures, a Private Member’s Bill and support from revered scientist Stephen Hawking to clear Turing’s name. Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown apologized for Turing’s treatment, describing the sentence as “appalling.”


Schwarzman described the pardon’s announcement as a “memorable day,” noting Turing’s continuing legacy.

The upcoming movie is not the first biographical treatment of the Turing story. Derek Jacobi portrayed the embattled codebreaker in the Broadway performance-turned-film “Breaking the Code,” produced by the BBC and released in 1996.


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