June 24 was the birthday of Alan Turing, called “the father of modern computing.” I only have a faint idea of who he was–mostly from reading about the Turing test for artificial intelligence in a sci-fi book, I think–but BoingBoing mentioned his birthday in a post which continued to say, “that he was persecuted for his homosexuality to the point of suicide is a crime and a tragedy.”

Wait, what? Like I said, I really didn’t know about him. Turns out he was, of course, brilliant; received the Order of the British Empire for his work on cracking codes in WWII; developed the first computing model; and in 1952 was convicted of “homosexual acts,” a crime still punishable at the time in Britain by hard labor (think Oscar Wilde). He was given the choice between that and probation, on the condition he submit to an estrogen implant to “curb his libido.”

God, no wonder he killed himself. And what more could this guy have thought of? A new energy source? A way to jump into hyperspace? Guess we’ll never know. Good job, 1950’s Britain.

Anyway. I was amazed I had never known this about Turing, so thought I would share. I don’t mean to depress anyone–it’s not like that NOW, at least–but sometimes I think, “This was only 50 years ago” and my mind just reels.