Sharon Bertsch McGrayne’s “The Theory That Would Not Die” Quotes 4

A series of spectacular international events in 1949 and 1950 intruded on [Turing’s] productive years and precipitated a personal crisis for Turing: the Soviets surprised the West by detonating an atomic bomb; Communists gained control of mainland China; Alger Hiss, Klaus Fuchs, and Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were arrested for spying; and Sen. Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin began brandishing his unsubstantiated list of so-called Communists in the U.S. State Department.

Even worse, two upper-crust English spies—an openly promiscuous and alcoholic homosexual named Guy Burgess and his friend from Cambridge student days Donald Maclean—evaded arrest by fleeing to the USSR in 1950. The United States told British intelligence they had been tipped off by Anthony Blunt, another homosexual graduate of Cambridge, a leading art historian, and the queen’s surveyor of paintings. With both the British and American governments panicked by visions of a homosexual spy scandal, the number of men arrested for homosexuality in Britain spiked.

On the first day of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign, February 7, 1952, Turing was arrested for homosexual activity conducted in the privacy of his home with a consenting adult. As Good [one of Turing’s colleagues during the war effort] protested later, “Fortunately, the authorities at Bletchley Park had no idea Turing was a homosexual; otherwise we might have lost the war.”

In the uproar over Burgess and Maclean, Turing was viewed not as the hero of his country but as yet another Cambridge homosexual privy to the most closely guarded state secrets. He had even worked on the computer involved in Britain’s atomic bomb test. As a result of his arrest, Britain’s leading cryptanalyst lost his security clearance and any chance to continue work on decoding. In addition, because U.S. Congress had just banned gays from entering the country, he was unable to get a visa to travel or work in the United States.

As the world lionized the Manhattan Project physicists who engineered the atomic and hydrogen bombs, as Nazi war criminals went free, and as the United States recruited German rocket experts, Turing was found guilty. Less than a decade after England fought a war against Nazis who had conducted medical experiments on their prisoners, an English judge forced Turing to choose between prison and chemical castration. He chose the estrogen injections. Over the next year he grew breasts. And on June 7, 1954, the day after the tenth anniversary of the Normandy invsaion he helped make possible, Alan Turing committed suicide. Two years later, the British government knighted Anthony Blunt, the spy who later admitted tipping off his friends Burgess and Maclean and precipitating the witch hunt againsth homosexuals. Even today, it is difficult to read—or read—about Turing’s end. In 2009, 55 years after Turing’s death, a British prime minister, Gorden Brown, finally apologized.

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