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Jocelyn Paine

Dr. Dobb's Bloggers

Tolerance

June 22, 2009

Alan Mathison Turing was born on June 23, 1912. The following passage is from Clive James's 1990 book of memoirs May Week was in June.

Recently the full story has been told of how the homosexual mathematician, Alan Turing,most gifted of all the many Queens of King's, saved Britain's life in World War II. With a then unusual combination of mathematical and engineering genius — two departments which the English educational system had always worked hard to keep separate — Turing devised the mechanism by which radio signals encoded through the German Enigma machine could be read in time to produce the stream of useful, often vital, secret intelligence known as Ultra. It was the society outside Cambridge which hounded Turing to an early grave. Cambridge itself, even if it did not precisely cherish him, at least offered him its tolerance and protection. Even more than Keynes's or Wittgenstein's, Turing's case, it seems to me, is decisive. Though it could be said that Cambridge was equally tolerant and protective of a whole succession of Foreign Office and MI5 prodigies who subsequently turned out to have been drawing an extra salary from the Soviet Union, nothing can alter the fact that Hitler, who threatened the whole of civilisation, owed his defeat in a large part to a high-voiced but not very predatory invert who threatened nobody, and that the dons of King's, who knew all about Turing's proclivities, did nothing to sabotage this desirable outcome. Where victimless crimes are concerned, tolerance is an absolute good.

 

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