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Updated January 30th, 2024 at 20:20 IST

Sculpture of Controversial Mathematician, Convicted ‘Gay Icon’ in 1950s Alan Turing unveiled in UK

Turing is known as father of modern computing, inventor of the concept of artificial intelligence, immortalised Second World War codebreaker of Bletchley Park.

Digital Desk
UK Alan Turing Sculpture Gay Icon
This 1930 photo provided by the Sherborne School in Sherborne, England, shows members of Westcott House, including Alan Turing, center. | Image:AP
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An eye-catching sculpture in honour of the ‘controversial’ mathematician Alan Turing was unveiled at Cambridge’s Kings College in England where he studied math. The memorial, named ‘True,’ which received mixed reactions, has been designed by Angel of the North sculptor Sir Antony Gormley. It was granted planning permission officially in August 2022.

Known as the father of modern computing, the inventor of the concept of artificial intelligence, the immortalised Second World War codebreaker of Bletchley Park, Turing (1912-54) pursued the subject mathematics at King’s. He enrolled in the University of Cambridge college in 1935 aged just 22, according to Cambridge Independent. His sculpture is being touted as the “homecoming.”

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'True, for Alan Turing', the new sculpture by Sir Antony Gormley, was officially unveiled yesterday.

Thank you to all who came along to celebrate the life and work of Alan Turing and hear more about this extraordinary artwork.
👉https://t.co/bV3F2HgKRG

— King's College, Cambridge (@Kings_College) January 23, 2024

Prosecuted in 1950s by UK for his sexuality

Turing, who was awarded an OBE in 1945, was prosecuted in the early 1950s for his sexuality as he came out identifying as ‘gay.’ After being convicted by the British government in 1952 of “gross indecency” with another man he was punished. In a letter that he wrote to a colleague, after 1952 trial for homosexuality, Turing said he described his situation to his mother: “I have been subjecting her to a good deal of sexual enlightenment and she seems to have stood up to it very well.”

Aged just 41 Turing died of suicide, according to the LGBTQNation. He, however, was pardoned by the Queen Elizabeth II under the Royal Prerogative of Mercy in 2013. UK government apologised for his treatment in 2009.

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The plan to erect his sculpture in Cambridge, however, was met with denials and much of the controversy that surrounded the inventor in 1950s. The 3.7m sculpture – 19 blocks of 5.5in (140mm) thick rolled Corten steel looks out between the Gibbs Building and Webb’s Court. It was a talking point with Historic England in 2022 in the correspondence with Cambridge City Council about planning permission.

“We consider that it would harm the particular character, created by the interplay of buildings and landscape, which makes the college so remarkable a place,” Historic England said, noting that the figure is controversial.

During his speech to about 100 invited academics, sponsors, alumni, and stakeholders, Antony Gormley, at an event at King's College said that he was, in fact, worried that the sculpture wasn’t “controversial enough,” sparking laughter. “I’m amazed by the way the sculpture speaks to the buildings and the buildings to the sculpture. They’ve immediately entered a kind of dialogue,” he stressed. Thanking everyone who made it happen, the designer added, “I have to say it took a long time to get here. It was 2015 when the journey started, and the planning permission was perhaps the biggest hurdle, though everyone agrees it looks like the sculpture has always been here.” He went on to add, that the memorial is a “3.5-tonne house of cards, you have to make sure it stands up.”

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Published January 30th, 2024 at 20:20 IST

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