Alan Turing, the father of computer science who was also gay, was named the most ‘iconic’ figure of the 20th Century on Tuesday (5 February).
Public voting during a live broadcast of BBC Two’s Icons: The Greatest Person Of The 20th Century chose the scientist.
Turing was instrumental in cracking Nazi codes during World War 2. But, he was later chemically castrated for being gay and is believed to have died by taking his own life.
‘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 been branded a criminal’ said presenter Nick Robinson.
‘Today he is the most celebrated figure of the 20th century, a father of computing, war hero and genius’.
He beat figures such as Martin Luther King Jr, Nelson Mandela, Ernest Shackleton, Pablo Picasso, David Bowie, and Muhammad Ali.
— BBC (@BBC) February 5, 2019
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. #equaliywins https://t.co/eYbJe6phWP
— LGBT Foundation (@LGBTfdn) February 5, 2019
Absolutely delighted Alan Turing has been voted winner of BBC’s #Icons competition. The father of computing who we have so much to be grateful for. He was treated appallingly. Encouraging society has progressed and he could win this accolade! 🏳️🌈 pic.twitter.com/6Rss9olqGP
— Ben Wood (@benwood) February 5, 2019
In 2013, Queen Elizabeth II pardoned Turing for his 1952 conviction for having sex with another man.
In World War 2, Turing broke Adolf Hitler’s Enigma codes thus shortening it by up to two years. He likely saved hundreds of thousands of lives.
After the war, in 1952, authorities prosecuted Turing for being gay. They forced him to undergo reparative therapy to try to cure his sexuality. He accepted chemical castration as an alternative to prison.
He is believed to have died by suicide two years later; the cause of death was cyanide poisoning.
Some 49,000 gay men, now dead, were convicted for homosexuality. They include poet, wit and playwright Oscar Wilde.
With two of Alan Turing’s family, Rachel Barnes & Inagh Payne, at Grand Final of @BBCTwo ICONS series. 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 pic.twitter.com/KHnNPmNO0D
— Peter Tatchell (@PeterTatchell) February 5, 2019