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Alan Turing

Artist: Finley Young


I chose Turing as an example of the loss to humanity caused by homophobic persecution. Turing was a mathematician, logician, cryptanalyst and computer scientist who broke the German code used by their Enigma machine. To do it, Turing built the world's first working computer, and by some estimates shortened the war by two years, saving 14 million lives. After the war, he turned his attention to computational biology and artificial intelligence, and made significant contributions in those fields. However, in 1952 he was prosecuted under British law for homosexuality. Pleading guilty, he accepted a sentence of chemical castration in lieu of imprisonment. One year later, after undergoing major bodily changes, he committed suicide by ingesting cyanide, leaving a half-eaten apple at his bedside.

Turing was pardoned, posthumously, by Queen Elizabeth in 2013. Poster portraiture is a poor subject for quilting, so I left the face blank rather than mess it up with shoe-button eyes and such. A brain like Turing's is an enigma to most of us, justifying the blank face. The apple spilling out cyanide illustrates the circumstances of his death (as well as perhaps nodding to the Apple Corporation- the lecture hall in the Stanford University mathematics building is now the Turing Auditorium). The cross represents the key to the German code, but it should be noted that Turing was an atheist who believed that the spirit survives bodily death.

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