The Tragic Suicide of Alan Turing

Alan Turing was a brilliant English mathematician who helped the Allies win World War II.

Working as a cryptographer at the now famous Bletchley Park complex he used his incredible focus and intelligence to crack the seemingly impossible codes of the German Enigma Machine. By locking himself in his room for days at a time he managed to reverse engineer the Enigma Machine — a stroke of pure genius that allowed the British and their allies to anticipate attacks and other vital information, changing the course of the war.

He’s also known as the father of computer science.  Time named him one of the 100 most important people of the 20th century.

[E]veryone who taps at a keyboard, opening a spreadsheet or a word-processing program, is working on an incarnation of a Turing machine.

Alan Turing was gay.  He killed himself on June 8, 1952, by eating a bite of an apple laced with cyanide.  But why?  We’ve seen a lot of theories from the right on why gay kids are killing themselves.  Could any of them apply?

Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association might say it’s because society was pushing too hard for people to be gay:

It must be pointed out that homosexual activists are not wholly innocent in these tragedies either. Homosexuals cannot reproduce so they must recruit. Part of the agenda of groups like GLSEN (the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network) is to urge students at younger and younger ages to come out and declare a disordered sexual preference. Sexually confused youth are pressured into locking into a sexual identity far before they are mature enough to do so.

Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council might argue that society was too accepting of homosexuality:

Peter Sprigg, senior fellow for policy studies at the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C., said the rash September suicides by gays might be linked to the students believing they were born gay. “That creates hopelessness,” he said. “It is more loving and compassionate to say you don’t have to be gay for the rest of your lives.”

His colleague Tony Perkins might back him up:

Some homosexuals may recognize intuitively that their same-sex attractions are abnormal–yet they have been told by the homosexual movement, and their allies in the media and the educational establishment, that they are “born gay” and can never change. This–and not society’s disapproval–may create a sense of despair that can lead to suicide.

Could Turing have killed himself because homosexuality was illegal in Britain?

Could he have done it because police discovered his sexual orientation while investigating a burglary of his home, and he was convicted of gross indecency?

Could it have been because in order to avoid a prison term he submitted to chemical castration by the government via female hormones?

No, of course not.  As Tony Perkins makes clear, society’s disapproval does not cause suicide.  Alan Turing must have killed himself because Britain was just too damn accepting.

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