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Hawking calls for pardon for code-breaker Turing

Friday - 12/14/2012, 7:33am  ET

LONDON (AP) - Stephen Hawking and other eminent scientists called Friday for the British government to pardon computer pioneer Alan Turing, who helped win World War II but was later prosecuted for homosexuality.

In a letter published in the Daily Telegraph newspaper, Hawking and 10 others urged Prime Minister David Cameron "formally to forgive the iconic British hero."

The letter, whose signatories also include Astronomer Royal Martin Rees and Paul Nurse, president of the Royal Society, called Turing "one of the most brilliant mathematicians of the modern era."

"It is time his reputation was unblemished," it said.

Turing worked at Bletchley Park, the wartime code-breaking center, where he helped crack Nazi Germany's secret codes by creating the "Turing bombe," a forerunner of modern computers.

He also developed the "Turing Test" to measure artificial intelligence.

After the war, Turing was prosecuted for having sex with a man, stripped of his security clearance and forcibly treated with female hormones. He killed himself in 1954 at age 41 by eating an apple laced with cyanide.

Sex between men remained illegal in Britain until 1967.

In 2009, then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown made a public apology on behalf of the government for Turing's "inhumane" treatment, saying: "We're sorry, you deserved so much better."


(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)