Turing suicide enigma challenged
Jun 24 2012
Alan Turing, the Second World War codebreaker widely regarded as the father of modern computing, may not have committed suicide but died as a result of an accident, an academic has claimed.
Evidence gathered after the death of the scientist from cyanide poisoning at the age of 41 in 1954 was "overlooked" and he could have died as a result of inhaling the poison he used in amateur experiments rather than deliberately ingesting it, according to Professor Jack Copeland.
Prof Copeland, director of the The Turing Archive for the History of Computing and author of a new biography of the academic to be published shortly, spoke as events took place around the country to celebrate the centenary of the under-appreciated scientific genius's birth.
"From the records I have been able to obtain, it seems to me very obvious that the inquest was conducted in a very superficial way," he said. "The coroner didn't really investigate the evidence at all, he just jumped to the conclusion that he committed suicide. He seems to have been very biased from the statements in newspapers at the time."
The coroner in Turing's death case ruled he committed suicide "while the balance of his mind was disturbed", adding: "In a man of his type, one never knows what his mental processes are going to do next."
Turing, who was gay, was found guilty of gross indecency with another man in 1952. To avoid prison, he agreed to receive injections of oestrogen for a year, which were intended to reduce his libido in a process known as "chemical castration".
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