Alan Turing, the Politics of Sexual Science, and the Making of a Gay Icon

Speaker: Chris Waters

Date: Tue, Nov 6, 2012

Location: University of Calgary

Conference: Alan Turing Year

Subject: Computer Science

Class: Scientific


In the 1940s Alan Turing’s homosexuality was an open secret amongst his co-workers at Bletchley Park. In 1952 the secret became widely known when Turing was arrested on charges of “gross indecency” under the same 1885 law that had led to the imprisonment of Oscar Wilde over half a century earlier. Opting for chemical “treatment” of his “condition” rather than imprisonment, Turing was one of many well-known casualties of a heightened drive against homosexuality in a postwar Britain that drew the line between the normal and the deviant more sharply than ever before. In his talk, Chris Waters will discuss Turing’s sexual proclivities and their meanings in the context of his times, focusing in particular on his arrest and subsequent fate in the context of the sexual politics of the first half of the 1950s. In addition, he will discuss the shaping of Turing’s posthumous reputation, beginning with the attempts made by the Gay Liberation Front in the 1970s to render Turing the gay icon he has become today.