LGBT History Month: Alan Turing

Earlier this week I went to a lecture for LGBT History Month organised by the University of Oxford LGBT Staff Network Steering Group. The topic was Alan Turing, the lecturer Andrew Hodges, Tutorial Fellow in Maths at Wadham College and author of the biography Alan Turing: the enigma.

Following a brief introduction on Turing’s work Hodges introduced the concept of hidden histories. In Turing’s life there were three:

  1. the history of code breaking at Bletchley Park during WW2 and Turing’s leading role in cracking the enigma code
  2. Turing’s involvement in the birth of Computer Science and the creation of the first computer
  3. Turing’s life as a gay man

The main focus of this talk, as you might expect for LGBT History Month, was on the third hidden history. We heard how, although discreet, Turing was by no means completely closeted choosing to live openly as a gay man within the relatively protected environments of the universities of Cambridge and Manchester.

This moving subject was made even more so by the revelation that the speaker was personally involved in revealing elements of each of these hidden histories through his work as a mathematician, biographer and member of the Gay Liberation Front in the 1970s.

I was really impressed with what a well attended event this was. Even more so that it was opened by Oxford’s Vice Chancellor, Andrew Hamilton who, rather than leave once his duty had been fulfilled stayed to hear the talk and participate in the event.