Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Letter to Her Majesty The Queen

Her Majesty The Queen
Buckingham Palace
London SW1A 1AA

August 25, 2009

Madam,

I write to ask Your Majesty to consider awarding a posthumous knighthood to the British mathematician, code-breaker and computer scientist Alan Turing.

Alan Turing was born in 1912 in London and in 1935 became a Fellow of King’s College, Cambridge. One year later he published a mathematical paper that is the foundation of all of computer science. In the paper he proposed a machine, which we now call a Turing Machine, that is the basis for all computers; the machine on which I write this letter to Your Majesty follows Turing’s rules.

Alan Turing went on to work at Bletchley Park during the Second World War and was instrumental in helping break Nazi German codes including the Enigma and is credited with shortening the war by a number of years. After the war Turing worked in Manchester on the birth of computers as we know them.

The United States-based Association of Computing Machinery has been giving an award in Turing’s name since 1966, and he was awarded the OBE in 1945 for his secret war time work.

But Alan Turing’s life ended in tragedy when after being prosecuted for ‘gross indecency’ (Alan Turing was a homosexual) he was forced to have estrogen injections and committed suicide. On that day in 1954, at age 41, Great Britain lost one of its greatest minds.

Since then Great Britain has done little to honour him. A section of road in Manchester is named after him, and a blue plaque is fixed to the wall of his former home.

I write today to Your Majesty to ask that Alan Turing be honoured with a posthumous knighthood that recognizes what a great man he was; there is no doubt in my mind that if Turing had lived past age 41 his international impact would have been great and that he likely would have received a knighthood while alive.

I have the honour to be, Madam, Your Majesty’s humble and obedient subject,

Dr John Graham-Cumming, MA (Oxon), DPhil (Oxon)

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If you enjoyed this blog post, you might enjoy my travel book for people interested in science and technology: The Geek Atlas. Signed copies of The Geek Atlas are available.

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