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Alan Turing to feature on new £50 note (bbc.co.uk)
664 points by hanoz 67 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 298 comments



It is funny how the article doesnt mention him committing suicide as a result of being chemically castrated by the UK authorities for being gay.


TBH if it was me I think I'd prefer it if not every single mention of me in the future brought up what is ultimately a rather personal and unpleasant thing. Yes, it was an appalling thing to have been done to him, but if I were successful I think I'd rather my successes were celebrated standing alone.


I think there's value to not sweeping these things under the rug. In the shockingly recent past we've committed atrocious things, and there's nothing stopping us from doing it again apart from us learning from our past.

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.


Not beating a dead horse about something isn’t the same as sweeping it under a rug.

I’d rather not have every single bit of communication contain a reminder of some past horror.


I tend to assume when a past horror is reiterated that it might be new information for someone else. I'd much rather new historical nuance be introduced to a new person over the unpleasant information being privately mine and others left ignorant.


As for current atrocities, look no further than the American border, the Chinese surveillance state (and the western hemisphere's complicity & avoiding the issue) or corporate monstrosities like FB enabling the persecution of minorities like the Rohingya.


Going from convicted criminal to celebrated on bank notes by the SAME government in less than 100 years is pretty notable!


Understanding his fate allows him to be an icon for disenfranchised minorities as well.


Does his end makes him more of an icon for disenfranchised minorities than the immense contributions this genius made over his life. If history were different and he were hit by a bus or lived a long life, he would still be an icon, no?


"Does his end makes him more of an icon for disenfranchised minorities than the immense contributions this genius made over his life".

Yes.

"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 that situation he would not be such an icon for disenfranchised minorities

In other words, he's an icon to different people for different reasons? That makes sense.


We shouldn't discount the value of having important people in history who were minorities, outcasts, or otherwise disenfranchised. To most young people, he's probably seen in the same light as Newton, Plato, or any of the other Smart People in History. But to an LGBTQ person, he can be looked to as a person who did great things while suffering from a social stigma that they too encounter on a daily basis.

Young people want to learn about heroes that are like them.


That's not the point. The people that celebrate him now hated him so much in the past that they have driven him to suicide.


Surely the people that drove him to suicide are mostly dead now. Turing has a lot of admirers here and few of us are old enough to remember a time when he was alive (I'm guessing there aren't a lot of HN members older than 70).


How so? As a gay man, I’m not encouraged by the story of his abuse. If anything it serves as an oppressive reminder that some people will always irrationally wish me harm.

Perhaps some people feel “empowered” by a victim mentality, but that doesn’t seem very socially progressive to me.


The encouragement comes from knowing that someone like them accomplished great things despite being different and being attacked for something they couldn't help.

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.


The short paragraph which talks about his mistreatment, links to a much longer article regarding his pardon, and his alleged suicide. This seems totally reasonable to me.


I'm not sure it needed to? I don't think they tried to exclude it, and more that "by the way, we castrated this guy decades ago" doesn't naturally come up in the article. Plus, they did actually issue a formal apology.

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.


FWIW, after reading Hodges biograpy on Turing, I don't think its anywhere near as clear that his death is due to suicide as is commonly stated, or that if he did commit suicide, that it was due to his (unjust) indecency conviction.


There's a sentence in the article that mentions his chemical castration, trial, and posthumous pardon and links to a more detailed article detailing all this and broaching the topic of suicide.

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.


This is common knowledge at least in the UK (in my experience).


>It is funny how the article doesnt mention him committing suicide as a result of being chemically castrated by the UK authorities for being gay.

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.


> 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).


While Turing did practical crypto work during WW2, I think Tutte's work on the Lorenz cipher was more impressive:

* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W._T._Tutte#Second_World_War

* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cryptanalysis_of_the_Lorenz_ci...

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.


Yes but traditionally the media has not portrayed poles positively.


> 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.

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.


You are, of course, completely correct. I was simplifying for the sake of the post.

> 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.


The Nobel Prize equivalent of Computer Science is called "The Turing Award" and has been coming out since the 1960's (and no Turing didn't find them in the same way Alfred Nobel funded the Nobel Prize)


While he was in the military, the work of his unit was so secret that other units called them "the do nothings."

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.


I don't know. I first heard of the 'Turing Test' at school, long before I knew about his conviction. And his work during WWII gives him a bit of a hero status, even for people who aren't interested in computers.


This is a common pattern, journalists propagate the scientific tales of scientists they like for non-scientific reasons. I wonder why the name "Einstein" is synonymous with "genius" in the media while Maxwell, von Neumann, Godel, Newton and many others could equally fit. I suspect Einstein has been so favored by the media to the exclusion of others because Einstein was a major proponent of Zionism. Similarly people call modern computers "Turing Machines" even though they are more accurately "von Neumann machines" because journalists love that after they've revered Turing as the mega-genius-man of computers, they can turn around and treat computers as a cause celebre of gay pride.


I'm not sure for overseas, but in the UK he is by far well known for his contribution towards cracking German transmissions and helping towards ending the war.

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.


Yes, exactly. Doesn't even feel like an apology.


You already knew about it, so obviously there was no need to mention it. Again.


Title should probably be updated to explicitly say it’s Alan Turing who will feature on the note.


And lose clicks?


Or gain clicks, given the audience. They’ll care more about Alan Turing than about a fiat currency.


#nospoiler :-)


they using bootleg Photoshop 6 at the Bank of England? yeesh


I sort of agree. The photograph seems cheap. What happened to engraved portraits on banknotes?


I am going to have to agree with this, the other notes look professionally engraved and what we have here looks like it is rushed and a airbrushed photoshop crop for us to see.


How do you know this?


just a reference to the low quality look of the composite image


Probably deliberate don't want to give forgers a high quality image to work on.


Is it a picture of before or after the government betrayed and mutilated him in a homophobic witch-hunt?

Thanks for helping win that war.. shame about your sexuality tho


Adolf Hitler could have been a good choice.


Ironic considering some countries have already transitioned to mostly digital payments.




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