Remembering Alan Turing

Today’s guest blogger is our good friend and colleague Patrick Sammon. One of the creators and Executive Producers of the Alan Turing documentary CODEBREAKER, Patrick is a passionate expert on the life of the a genius war hero who was sadly horrifically mistreated due to his sexuality.

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2012 was quite a year for Alan Turing.  The computer genius and hero codebreaker has been gone for almost 60 years, but his legacy and visibility received a big boost over the past year.  Around the world,  hundreds of events in dozens of countries marked what was called the Alan Turing Year.  2012 was the 100th anniversary of Turing’s birth.  To commemorate this important anniversary, Professor S. Barry Cooper at the University of Leeds  in the United Kingdom spearheaded an effort to mark his birth with academic conferences, lectures, public events, speeches, and competitions.  A Google Doodle to mark his 100th birthday on June 23rd helped Turing go mainstream.  And Even the Pet Shop Boys got in on the act to honor Turing with their project “Memory of the Future.”  Hopefully, the momentum to honor Turing’s legacy will continue in 2013.

Alan Turing was a one-of-a-kind intellectual force who changed our world.  He was a brilliant English mathematician who broke the German naval Enigma code during World War II, helping turn the tide against the Nazis.  He also laid the intellectual foundation for the computer and he’s considered the father of artificial intelligence.  Instead of being honored by the British, Turing was prosecuted for being gay and endured chemical castration.  Soon after, he committed suicide in June 1954.  He was only 41 years old.

As I’ve traveled around the U.S. presenting my award winning film about Turing, it has been exciting to see how his story inspires and connects with audiences. So far, nearly two million people around the world have seen CODEBREAKER. The release of this drama-documentary in U.S. theaters is continuing in the months ahead.  The film has been in ten cities so far and we’re pleased that our “theater on demand” distribution model allows anybody in the U.S. to help bring a screening of this compelling film to their city or town.

Over the past year, there has been a growing chorus of people demanding a posthumous pardon for Turing.  Last month, Steven Hawking joined ten other scientists in writing a public letter asking the British government to pardon him. “We urge the Prime Minister to exercise his authority and formally forgive the iconic British hero,” wrote the scientists.

Whether that happens or not, all of us can pay tribute to Turing by making sure our friends know his story and understand his legacy.  The next time you pull out your smart phone from your pocket, think about this person who helped create our modern world.  Remember how badly he was treated. And be inspired by Alan Turing’s unique personality and amazing life.

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