Alan Turing Voted Greatest Icon Of 20th Century

The gay computer scientist played a pivotal role in cracking coded messages from the Nazis during World War Two before he was prosecuted for his sexuality.

Black and white image of Alan Turing

The ‘father of computer science’ Alan Turing has been named the greatest and most influential person of all time on BBC Two’s programme Icons: The Greatest Person of the 20th Century.

Turing played a hugely influential role in the development of computer science, and his Turing machine was considered to be the model for a general-purpose computer.

Additionally, Turing played a crucial role as a computer scientist during World War Two. His ability to crack intercepted coded messages enabled the Allies to defeat the Nazis a number of times, and contributed to their victory of the war.

After the war, however, Turing was prosecuted for his homosexuality. Given the choice of chemical castration or imprisonment, Turing chose the former. He died aged 41 in 1954.

Speaking about the computer scientist’s contribution, presenter Nick Robinson said:

“He was a man who worked almost entirely in secret, who received little credit for cracking the Nazi codes and shortening the war and who died having being branded a criminal.”

Robinson continued:

“Today he is the most celebrated figure of the 20th century, a father of computing, war hero and genius.”

Turing beat out other finalists from a variety of fields including David Bowie, Pablo Picasso, Muhammad Ali, Nelson Mandela and Ernest Shackleton.

LGBT+ organisations welcomed the honouring of Turing. Taking to Twitter, the LGBT Foundation wrote:

“Thrilled to see Alan Turing win #icons tonight. Persecuted for his sexuality, but a man who has shaped all our lives. A true genius, a pioneer and an icon for us all. #EqualityWins.”

LGBT+ activist Peter Tatchell tweeted that many gay men arrested under the same circumstances as Turing are still awaiting compensation:

“With two of Alan Turing’s family, Rachel Barnes and Inagh Payne at Grand Final of BBC Two’s Icons series. The public vote tonight to determine The Greatest Person of the 20th Century. I am still campaigning for compensation for gay men jailed for consenting same-sex relations.”

© 2019 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

Support GCN

For 30 years GCN has been a vital, free-of-charge information service for Ireland’s LGBT+ community. We want to go on providing this community hub in print and online, helping countless individuals across the country, but the revenue from advertising across the media is falling.

GCN needs your support. If you value having an independent LGBT+ media in Ireland, you can help from only €1.99 per month. Support Ireland’s free, independent LGBT+ media.

0 comments. Please sign in to comment.