As for a society honouring it's heroes, it rings a bit hollow when it through persecution killed said heroes. Being honoured when you're dead does you very little good.
I’d rather not have every single bit of communication contain a reminder of some past horror.
"If history were different and he were hit by a bus or lived a long life, he would still be an icon, no?"
Yes, but in that situation he would not be such an icon for disenfranchised minorities because the nonsense gay people had to deal with back then wouldn't have been so visible. Are there any other people from that particular point in time and location who are remembered for suffering and dying as he did?
In other words, he's an icon to different people for different reasons? That makes sense.
Young people want to learn about heroes that are like them.
Perhaps some people feel “empowered” by a victim mentality, but that doesn’t seem very socially progressive to me.
The reason we should talk about his fate is that I don't believe in white-washing history. Society was full of assholes who had no problem destroying the lives of people who were different. Keeping light of these atrocities fresh in peoples' minds provides for a mechanism to show the progress of society and helps prevent regressions.
I would hope they're doing this to honor Turing, not to apologize for what they did to him. Face on a bill is nice, but doesn't make up for ruining some one's life, so it would be a lousy apology any way. So I kind of hope the media more covers what Turing accomplished than the things Engkand did.
I bet you want an editorial (and I bet you want one that mirrors your own beliefs and is a bit preachy about it). That's not what this article is for.
Yeah I agree, I assume this is actually the main reason he is so well known and celebrated today. Mere obsession with computers would make Godel, Alonso Church, and others with equivalent models of computation just as famous.
I absolutely disagree.
For one thing, Turing didn't just invent a model of computation - he invented what is seen, in some sense, to be the precursor to the actual, physical computer (the Turing Machine).
But more importantly, in addition to doing that, he actually built one of the first actual computers. And he did that in order to break the German encryption in WW2.
I am a huge fan of Godel's work, don't get me wrong, but Alan Turing was far more important in world history, and indeed in math/science history (though Godel is of course hugely important too).
Everyone talks about Enigma during WW2, but the Poles had mostly figured things out pre-War (for which they're generally forgotten), and it was largely a matter of brute forcing things during the War IMHO.
Not quite. He built the Bombe, which was not a computer. Elsewhere at Bletchley Park, other people built Colossus, one of the earliest electronic computing machines - but still not a computer, really, as it had no program.
After the war, the first computer was built in Manchester, and although Turing was around, and it was clearly based in part on his ideas, my understanding is that he wasn't directly involved with building it.
I think it's Turing's dual role in laying the theoretical foundation of computing and winning World War 2 that made him famous.
I don't think his tragic death has made him more famous; if anything, it delayed his fame - imagine how well-known he would have been if he'd lived on into the computer age! Not a BBC documentary would go by without photos of Turing looking seriously at an ICL 2900, Turing sat at a BBC Model B, an elderly Turing and a thirtysomething Tim Berners-Lee mugging at the camera, etc.
> I don't think his tragic death has made him more famous; if anything, it delayed his fame -
I agree! I was very tempted to answer the parent by saying that Turing isn't very famous. I don't think most people have heard of him, or at least, hadn't 10 years ago. The movie coming out helped, I imagine.
So while it may not be true that the lurid nature of his demise is the reason in a "people like to rubberneck" kind of way, his death at an early age is likely part of why the world knows of his work. Many crypto experts worked secretly for the government and lived and died in obscurity.
Being famous for your work (while still working) and doing secret work tend to be mutually exclusive.
The Turing Machine is something else he is known for (as an aside for his contributions during WW2) but I suspect if you were to ask the average person, they'd suggestion foremostly he cracked German transmissions not built the precursor to the computer.
Perhaps more recently he will have been known to be gay and had committed suicide, because in recent years there has been a lot more about him in the media.
I've got to confess I didn't know much about his later life and suicide for a long time and only really knew of him in regards to WW2 and his part played in computing history.
Thanks for helping win that war.. shame about your sexuality tho