Alan M. Turing

Alan M. Turing *38 is widely recognized as the father of computer science and is an icon in the history of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights. He entered Princeton in 1936 following studies at King’s College, Cambridge, and just before the publication of his influential paper, “On Computable Numbers,” in which he envisioned abstract machines (now called Turing machines) that became the basis of modern computers. After earning his Ph.D. in mathematics from Princeton in 1938, Turing returned to his native England, where during World War II he was central to the successful effort to decode the German Enigma ciphers, a crucial development in the Allied victory.

Turing, an openly gay man when homosexual acts were still criminal acts in the United Kingdom, was convicted of “gross indecency” in 1952. In order to avoid prison, he had to agree to undergo a series of estrogen injections. He died two years later from what was believed to be suicide. In 2013, the British government granted Turing a posthumous pardon, following an apology for “the appalling way he was treated,” and now upholds an amnesty law informally known as the Alan Turing law. Turing was included among Time magazine’s 100 most important people of the 20th century and ranked second in a Princeton Alumni Weekly article about the University’s most influential alumni of all time.

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