The Legacy of Turing

I have come across the following memorials, above is a statue located at Bletchley Park, by Stephen Kettle the sculpture uses slate to depict Turing interestingly he is again shown sat down though on this occasion he is working at a desk for more information click here. I came across the video below on Youtube unfortunately there is no explanation or context, though it is an interesting response to Alan Turing as the virtual 'bust' is placed on-line a location made possible by Turing's legacy.

In my continuing research into Alan Turing and his legacy I am struck by the complexity of this particular figures impact. As various memorials outline, Alan Turing is widely believed to be the forefather of computer technology. Various on-line postings explain that without Alan Turing you would not be able to see the words you see here and on any other computer screen. The article here comments on the over importance placed on Alan Turing’s sexuality the writer claims that too much emphasis is placed on culturally important gay figures, inferring that this prurient interest in the private life of public figures detracts from the influence they have to society generally. I partly agree though in the current climate of homophobia that persists in its various complex forms I feel it is essential to publicise the identity of important contributors to society as this may in part challenge the stereotypes that persist.

When the above memorial was revealed at Bletchley Park there was some controversy focusing on the lack of information regarding Alan Turing’s homosexuality with calls from various activists to augment the text accompanying the memorial to properly place Turing in ‘gay history’.

Whilst browsing the various posts on Turing it is interesting to note that the level of detail regarding his sexuality varies greatly. Some say “he was believed to be homosexual” others refrain from commenting on the nature of Turing’s personal life and death at all. Do these omissions represent a version of homophobia?

It’s tempting to believe that the reason for this partial cultural invisibility is in part due to Turing’s sexuality; a heteronormative society promotes and celebrates a particular version of masculinity. A brilliant scientist and thoughtful gay mans contribution to the war effort doesn’t tally with the traditional viewing of a macho war hero.

Though I believe there is a responsibility to celebrate the great in all fields irrespective of sexuality. It is interesting to note that a recent poll of gay men and their heroes neglected to mention Alan Turing at all, instead the majority of ‘heroes’ focused on popular culture ‘icons’, for more read here. This perhaps reveals as much about gay culture as it does a wider societal disinterest in politics and history. My research continues.


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