Alan Turing mural

On the 10th September 2009, the British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, issued an apology to Alan Turing, culminating with the words “we’re sorry, you deserved so much better”. This apology came over 60 years after Turing’s ingenious cracking of the German Enigma code, which explicitly led to many British victories in WW2, such as the Battle of the Atlantic. During the war, Turing worked at Bletchley Park – more specifically, Hut 8, which was a section of the Government Code and Cypher School, tasked with deciphering German naval messages. It is here that his most notable achievement, the Bombe machine, was created. This revolutionary machine was responsible for determining the daily settings of the 3,000-5,000 Enigma messages which changed frequently, making it extremely difficult to crack. Nevertheless, this machine was invaluable in supplying coded messages, with many historians believing that Turing’s work on the Enigma may have shortened the war by as long as four years and thus saved millions of lives.

Despite his remarkable contribution, Turing was convicted of ‘gross indecency’ in March 1952, as at this time homosexuality was illegal in Britain. Turing’s dispicable treatment from the British government, all because he was a gay man, contributed to his premature death in 1954, with his legacy being that of a criminal. Nevertheless, there have been many efforts in the last few decades to restore his name. This started with the aforementioned apology in 2009 and a Royal Pardon in 2013. Then, notably in 2017, legislation entitled “Turing’s Law” was introduced, pardoning all gay men convicted under historical legislation. Most recently in June 2021, Alan Turing became the first gay man to appear on a British Bank note, which has become a welcomed symbol for the LGBTQ+ community of the societal recognition of the historical condemnation and discrimination against gay people.

The heroic legacy of Alan Turing is amplified for those at UoM due to his work here in Manchester. Post-war, he lived in Wilmslow and worked at the University, where in 1948 he worked on the Manchester Mark 1, one of the world’s earliest computers. His remarkable contribution to modern science is solidified through various landmarks across Manchester, such as the Alan Turing memorial in Sackville Park, as well as the University naming its Mathematics building “The Alan Turing Building”. To this day, Turing is recognised as a pillar of innovation and inspiration, whilst also serving as a sordid reminder to those who possess intolerance within their hearts of the creativity and genius that can be lost when inclusivity is stifled.