United Kingdom government officials announced this morning their formal intentions to pardon World War II war hero Alan Turing for his conviction of homosexuality in 1952. Turing's computer science genius played an integral role in deciphering Nazi German coding, but his heroics were not enough to save him from the brutal process of chemical castration and an unfortunate eventual suicide.
The code breaker's gruesome sentence came under Britain's 1885 Criminal Law Amendment Act that criminalized gay activity and led to the convictions of over 49,000 British men, including the brilliantly eloquent sir Oscar Wilde. But, though nearly 50 years have passed since Turing's tragic death, and though the British government just last year refused to pardon thousands of other men barbarically injected with estrogen to neutralize their libidos, this pardoning is an important step for the English to take. And no, it's not too little, too late.
If we look back to contextualize, we'll find that plenty of atrocities have taken a discouragingly-long time to be rightfully acknowledged. It took the United States 46 years to apologize to the 110,000 Japanese Americans who were forced into detention camps under FDR's Executive Order in 1942. Australia waited until 2008 to formally apologize for offenses to its aboriginal population for prejudicial policies that put children up for adoption to white families in the hopes of "breed[ing] out the color." And Argentina needed almost 30 years to admit and take blame for the estimated 30,000 conspicuous deaths during the so-called dirty war of its 1970s coup d'état.
So while it is certainly still uncomfortable that it took almost 50 years for England to pardon a war hero for being grotesquely and shamefully mutilated for his homosexuality after having served his entire life to the state, providing critical information in times of war, and catapulting England into technological leadership, this gesture should be welcomed by the world. Hopefully Turing's legacy for his enormous strides in quantum physics will be praised across the world now more than ever before. England's apologetic remission of the mathematician's legal consequences should serve as further evidence that it's never too late to at least try to right a wrong.