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Enigma codebreaker Alan Turing receives royal pardon

A computer pioneer and codebreaker whose work proved vital to Allied forces in World War Two has been given a posthumous royal pardon.

In 1952, Dr Alan Turing was convicted of gross indecency after his relationship with a 19-year old man was discovered. According to laws at the time, homosexuality was forbidden and Dr Turing was faced with a choice of jail or chemical castration by injection of female hormones. Unwilling to live his life behind bars, he chose the latter.

The punishment was carried out despite Dr Turing's vital efforts to protect the Allies in World War Two. A "genius" mathematician, Turing was a codebreaker at Bletchley park where he invented the machine which cracked the Enigma codes used by German U-boats. Historians believe Dr Turing's work may have shortened the war by two years.

The request for pardon was submitted by Justice Minister Chris Grayling, who said that "Dr Alan Turing was an exceptional man with a brilliant mind. His later life was overshadowed by his conviction for homosexual activity, a sentence we would now consider unjust and discriminatory and which has now been repealed."

The pardon was granted under the Royal Prerogative of Mercy by the Queen and comes into effect from today, Tuesday 24 December.

Tragically, Dr Turing died two years after his sentencing from cyanide poisoning. An inquest at the time declared the cause of death as suicide. However the brilliant scientist's friends, family and biographers dispute the finding, saying his death was an accident at the behest of security services.

Glyn Hughes, who sculpted the Alan Turing Memorial in Manchester, notes how much of a turnaround the decision to pardon the gifted code breaker was.

"When we set out to try and make him famous - get him recognised - it was really difficult to collect money," he said. "None of the big computer companies would stump up a penny for a memorial. They perhaps would now - we've come a very long way."

In August 2011, Gordon Brown – who was Prime Minister at the time – issued an official apology for the way that Turing was persecuted for his sexuality, branding the punishment "appalling".

However, in December 2011, despite 34,000 signatures on a Direct Gov e-petition lobbying for Dr Turing be pardoned, the request was denied. The then justice secretary, Lord McNally, said that Dr Turing was "properly convicted" for what was at the time a criminal offence.

This time round, justice prevailed. According to Ian Stewart, a conservative MP who was heavily involved in the pardoning campaign, "Alan Turing was an incredibly important figure in our history. He was the father of computer science and the originator of the dominant technology of the late 20th century."

"He made a huge impact on the world he lived in and left a legacy for the world of today and tomorrow. This royal pardon is a just reward for a man who was stripped of his honour, his work, and the loyalty he showed his nation."