Petition to get a pardon for Turing's "gross indecency" conviction

The UK government has officially apologised to computing giant and war hero Alan Turing for forcing him to take hormone injections as "therapy" for being gay (driving him to suicide), but now a petition has been mounted to get an official pardon Turing's 1952 for "gross indecency."

We ask the HM Government to grant a pardon to Alan Turing for the conviction of 'gross indecency'. In 1952, he was convicted of 'gross indecency' with another man and was forced to undergo so-called 'organo-therapy' - chemical castration. Two years later, he killed himself with cyanide, aged just 41. Alan Turing was driven to a terrible despair and early death by the nation he'd done so much to save. This remains a shame on the UK government and UK history. A pardon can go to some way to healing this damage. It may act as an apology to many of the other gay men, not as well known as Alan Turing, who were subjected to these laws.

Grant a pardon to Alan Turing


  1. Awesome as Alan Turing was, this whole thing seems a bit weird.  Is he more deserving than any of the thousands of others abused by this law?  Why not petition for everyone convicted in this manner to be pardoned?

    1. Why not petition for everyone convicted in this manner to be pardoned?

      Is somebody stopping you from doing that?

    2. Yes, in fact, he _is_ more deserving. He _deserves_ a knighthood.

      That does not mean that all of the others are not plenty deserving enough for the wrongs against them to be redressed. But to even ask if Alan Turing is “more deserving” is kind of darkly funny.

      1. You’re making a simple logical error here. He is ‘more deserving’ only in the sense that he is ‘deserving of more,’ i.e. a knighthood. He is not however ‘more deserving’ in the sense of ‘deserving a pardon to a greater degree.’ This was an unjust law, and so all people convicted under it, independent of their desert in other matters, are maximally deserving of pardon/restitution/apology/etc for that injustice.

        1. It’s not illogical, he was treated significantly more shabbily, and singularly, deserved much better. Everyone else deserved better too, but the universe really seemed to single that guy out for an epic dump.

          And I bet he’d endure it again, for Queen and Country.

        2. While you are right treating any human being like that is deplorable, but I agree that there is some significance that here is a man, that not only was one of the greatest minds of the UK, but also contributed so much to not only the UK government, the people, as well as society as a whole. Anyway it just makes me sad to read it.

    3. Maybe it is easier to pardon one person and thus establish a precedent for others to be pardoned.

      1. This is precisely the case and is the reason I support the petition despite my misgivings about it.  Turing’s status as a genius, a computer innovator (to put it mildly), and a war hero make it hard to say no to him.  Say yes to him and then afterward it becomes very hard to say no to everyone else.  See post here:

  2. I’m the person behind the 2009 Alan Turing apology campaign that resulted in the mentioned apology from Gordon Brown.  I learnt of this new petition a little while ago and wrote up my thoughts:

    The bottom line is that I’m not signing this petition because I think it would be unjust to pardon Turing alone and that it ignores what happened subsequent to the 2009 petition: the introduction of the Protection of Freedoms Act that expunges the convictions of living gay men convicted as Turing was.  Pardoning Turing will not help the living whereas that bill will.

    1. I didn’t know about that law, just had a quick look on Wikipedia.  Got to say I’m a fan (it also includes provisions to reduce the retention of biometric data/dna, removes the terrorism act Stop and Search provision and reduces detention without charge back down to 14 days and some other good stuff)

      1. Be careful with that law — there’s less to it than meets the eye, at least on some points.  It has some good things in it, but on my reading of it, it actually offers far less than it should be with respect to people in Turing’s position.  I posted a detaied analysis of that part of the law here:
        I also share John Graham-Cumming’s concerns, which I think are largely valid, but I think his analysis has some flaws, which are addressed in the same post.

  3. Wasn’t the whole point of beating the Krauts in WWII so the free world could burn off people’s genitals with chemicals?

    Good to see the UK Government stand tall on this one. Hope it doesn’t take 59 years for the UK Govt to apologise for following Bush into Iraq on his crusade.

  4. If the ” UK government has officially apologised” then they have already gone one step further.
    Get over it , move on,  we all did bad things in the past!
    No good comes of endlessly reliving the mistakes of the past when it has already been acknowledged.

    1. There is a difference between acknowledgement and restitution. As is mentioned above, some people are still living with the consequences of the “bad things” that were done to them.

      I think it’s for them to decide when to “get over it”.

      1. But as also already mentioned a law is already half way through parliament to allow them to clear their names

  5. In a sense, the UK has also paid for its mistakes by screwing itself out of the computer revolution. Imagine an alternative timeline where Apple, IBM and Microsoft analogues are British companies…

    1. To be fair… The ARM microprocessor design that lives inside the vast majority of non-desktop computing devices (smart phones, tablet computers, set top boxes, Nintendo DSes, etc.) is designed and licensed by a British company.

  6. So the question up for consideration is this… Does the HM Government pass the Turing test?  Or, is it possible to interact with said government and leave with the impression that you were interacting with an actual human?

  7. As a non-UK citizen but great admirer of Turing I am peeved I cannot sign this petition :_(

  8. This whole thing strikes me as weird. Why ask today’s government, who didn’t convict Turing and who wouldn’t convict him, to pardon Turing, who is now dead? There’s been a shift in values over the last century. Why should we apologise for things that happened before we were born? We can say that it’s regrettable that Turing was convicted, and it is, and that it wouldnt happen today, but it makes no sense to pardon things that happened before we were born, other than to state that today’s rules are different.

    1. Agreed. What’s also weird is that today’s government, who didn’t create any of the buildings or infrastructure of Britain, claim authority over it. Why should we get to control certain bits of the world just because of things that happened before we were born?

      You can’t have it both ways – we don’t get to claim ownership of our nations and pride in their past accomplishments without also taking responsibility for their wrongdoings.

      1. I was going to point out the value in, say, the  modern Vatican apologising for the transgressions of the Inquisition, or modern Germany still consciously recognising the evils done by the Third Reich, or the US working to compensate for the harm done to the ancestors of today’s African Americans… there are many more such examples, but Sir Dook put it better.

        Still, you made the point yourself: “to state that today’s rules are different.” Stating that is VERY important. And it’s the very least a government can do. 

  9. Maybe one of these days the Royal family will apologize for the crusades, colonization and torture of indigenous people on all continents and maybe the current government will apologize for the  most recently invading privacy of all UK citizens.
    Hey maybe one day the USA will apologize for the “Patriot Act”.

    We never know, but will that fix anything?

  10. A pardon makes little sense, since Turing is long dead and can’t be released from his punishment. Technically a pardon does not remove your guilt under UK law, it merely forgives the offence.
    The prime ministerial apology was enough. Actually the formal apology carries much more moral weight than a basic pardon.The law to revoke all convictions of “guilty of being gay” is something that is much more worthy of support. I’m sure a few (most will be dead by now of course) people would actually appreciate no longer being considered an ex-con and having to answer “yes” when asked “have you ever been convicted of a criminal offence?”.

  11. I’m not clear on why anyone thinks he needs pardoned anymore than Galileo needed a pardon from the church.  Anyone with more than 2 neurons rubbing together knows that they were “great spirits who encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds”.  And even if they did apologize does anyone think anything will actually change as a result?

  12. “Technically a pardon does not remove your guilt under UK law, it merely forgives the offence.”

    That’s what I wanted to say. He did nothing wrong, why should he need to be pardoned?

  13. Is that a 3D-printed Turing sculpture? Seems you left off the photo attribution you normally include.

    Also, I can see both sides of this debate. I do think it’s rather a bit superfluous to ask for a pardon for someone who’s dead. But I understand too why you would do it – it brings some awareness to those who hear about the petition about what happened, and hopefully will lead to further support for measures (such as others have mentioned) that will help people who are still living who were affected by such laws.

    Plus you can’t go wrong with a “those who forget history are doomed to repeat it” stance, considering homosexuality is still a hot-button issue these days, and this type of insane punishment plays into today’s fears of the UK (and US) government becoming ever-more totalitarian.

      1. Ha, good catch. And not 3D-printed. Interesting that it looks the way a roughly-printed plastic 3D-printed object sometimes looks, though. His other photos show more detail and it looks like it’d be quite spectacular to see in person (I’m a geologist and I love that it’s made of slate!)

    1. That’s not a 3d printed bit of Turing art, but to see a great piece check out Turing Elves Go All “Maker Faire” on an Ancient Art on the Turing Centenary blog, here:

  14. There’s still a mystery surrounding Turing’s suicide (assuming it was a suicide).  In any event, he completed his sentence and was already off the hormones by the time of his death so  it isn’t accurate to say that the treatment drove him to suicide.  We’ll likely never know the real reason for his death.

    1. “In any event, he completed his sentence and was already off the hormones by the time of his death so it isn’t accurate to say that the treatment drove him to suicide.”

      I don’t think this is a logical conclusion.

      I don’t know exactly why Turing committed suicide, however, it *could* be accurate to say that an experience (such as being forced to take hormones for being gay) could drive someone to suicide even if they were no longer experiencing what drove them to that act. Just because an experience has ended doesn’t mean it can’t drive you to suicide. A lot of people who experience depression, for example, commit suicide after they take medication that alleviates the symptoms of depression. A soldier who has come home can commit suicide after experiencing the trauma of war, and it could be accurate to say that his experience in the war drove him to suicide even though he is no longer in the war.

    2. It isn’t accurate really to speculate either way about what caused his suicide as it would be near impossible to know the state of his mind at the time he decided to check out. Having said that, hormones are powerful little buggers and tinkering with them can have long lasting and adverse affects which even less was known about at the time these treatments were forced upon people. 

      In addition to that there is a great deal of stigma and shame that (is still) was heaped on persons such as Turing. Not only that but given his conviction, he was locked out of doing the things he loved doing because the idio… government at the time thought ‘teh gays’ were a security threat. So let’s review here, tried and convicted for the ‘crime’ of illegal love, thrown out of Bletchley Park, stripped of clearances, shot up with hormones, derided, ridiculed and harassed by idiots and forever marked as a deviant and suspected communist (or at least turnable). I’m not really sure anybody could stand up to that sort of shit for very long.  So it could have been one of those things, it could have been all of them or any combination, and it could have been something entirely different that we don’t know about. While you may be correct about the correlation (or lack thereof) of treatment to suicide. It’s still pretty safe to assume that the treatments had some effect and were part and parcel of the harassment Turing received and helped to tip the decision to just end it all.

      Also, “assuming it was a suicide”, interesting thought. Care to expand on that one? I’d genuinely like to know if there is any substance to this conspiracy theory.

      1. Off topic, disqus is F—— terrible. I love how the pop up box says something like ‘you may need to disable your pop-up blocker’, I mean how frickin stupid is that? If I can see the message I don’t need it and if I can’t see the message then it is of no use to me. I also thought that I would like nested threads but it turns out that this sort of sucks because now it’s even harder to tell if I’ve missed new comments to a thread or not. Can we just go back to linear style (with post numbers maybe, pretty please?). Sorry for the mini-rant, feel free to nuke this if you need to.

  15. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the petition will be in English.

    Things could have gone differently on both accounts. Thank You Mr. Turing, we owe you.

    1. Ontario’s Centre For Addiction and Mental Health? No, wait, they just try to cure children of being trans with reparative therapy and forcing parents to deny trans children signifiers of their identified sex, so no pink for the girls, in the hope that they’ll give up and pretend to be boys.

  16. Ironically, I’m happily on the medication they forced Mister Turing to take. If the relief and an end to the feeling of hopeless wrongness it brought about in me is inverse to the chemical gender dysphoria it created in his own system, I cannot, for the life of me think of a more horribly slow death.

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