Alan Turing event on Sunday 24th February

Liesbeth Ham

Sunday 24th February, 3pm, Jesus Lane Friends' Meeting House

Alan Turing and homophobia: the relationship of the past with the present

As part of Gay History Month Amnesty International Cambridge City group has organised an event around Alan Turing and homophobia. Dr Andrew Hodges, Turing's biographer will join a panel of four speakers. Together with the AIUK refugee researcher Paul Dillane and philosophers Dr Craig Bourne and Dr Emily Caddick Bourne he will discuss homophobia, the past and present gay rights movement and today's and yesterday's discrimination and persecution.

Andrew Hodges conducted his research and writing on Alan Turing in the period from 1977 to 1983. He says: “I came to it as a mathematician, but also from the standpoint of the gay rights movement of the 1970s, and with an interest in twentieth century world history. In my talk I shall describe the reasons why Alan Turing is regarded as so unusually special and important in mathematics and science. I will give a picture of what happened when he was prosecuted in 1952, but also describe something of Alan Turing's life and consciousness as a gay man within the changing currents of his own time.”

Paul Dillane has for the past 9 years been engaged in representing foreign nationals seeking international protection in the UK, including persons who have been forced to flee their home country on account of their sexual orientation. As such he will give an insight into the persecution that gay and lesbian men and women are experiencing in today's world.

Philosophers Emily Caddick Bourne and Craig Bourne will focus on what UK society should do about the fact that it was wrong that past UK legislation criminalised sexual acts between men. Alan Turing's 1952 conviction for 'gross indecency' has prompted different responses. A recent petition suggests that Turing should be given a pardon, whilst in 2009 Gordon Brown offered him an apology. They will set out some issues concerning what these different speech acts - pardons and apologies - consist in. This enables two things to be evaluated: first, whether they are appropriate responses to the harm done to Turing; second, whether a response aimed at a specific individual, such as Turing, is a legitimate way to deal with legislation which was also unfair to so many other people.

After the talks there will be an opportunity for questions and discussion.

Refreshments will be served after the event, where there will also be the opportunity to sign Amnesty letters and buy second hand books. 

The event is free, but donations are appreciated to cover the cost of the event and to further the work of Amnesty International.

Speaker biographies:

Andrew Hodges (born in London, 1949) is a mathematician, an author and an activist in the gay liberation movement of the 1970s. Since the early 1970s, Hodges has worked on twistor theory which is the approach to the problems of fundamental physics pioneered by Roger Penrose. Hodges is best known as the author of Alan Turing: The Enigma, the story of the British computer pioneer and codebreaker Alan Turing.  The book was chosen by Michael Holroyd as part of a list of 50 'essential' books (that were currently available in print) in The Guardian, 1 June 2002. He is also the author of works that popularize science and mathematics.

He is a Tutorial Fellow in mathematics at Wadham CollegeOxford University. Having taught at Wadham since 1986, Hodges was elected a Fellow in 2007, and was appointed Dean from start of the 2011/2012 academic year.

Craig Bourne is Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Hertfordshire. Craig studied at Pembroke College, Cambridge, taking a BA (1995-1998) and MPhil (1998-1999) in Philosophy, followed by a PhD on the philosophy of time (1999-2002). Before joining Hertfordshire in 2007, he was a Research Fellow at St Catharine’s College, Cambridge (2002-2006), a Lecturer in the Cambridge Philosophy Faculty (2004-2005) and a College Lecturer in Philosophy at Pembroke and New Hall, Cambridge (2006-2007). Craig’s research interests are in metaphysics, logic, philosophy of science, philosophy of language and philosophy of sex. His publications include A Future for Presentism (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2006), which sets out his account of the nature of time, and Philosophical Ridings (Oxford: Oneworld Publications, 2007), an introduction to philosophical issues such as death, punishment, the status of animals, obligations to the environment, and the value of life.

Emily Caddick Bourne is Institute Teaching Officer and Academic Director in Philosophy at the Institute of Continuing Education, University of Cambridge. Emily completed her BA in Philosophy at Newnham College, Cambridge in 2007. She stayed at Newnham to take an MPhil and PhD. Alongside her work at the Institute of Continuing Education, Emily currently holds a Jacobsen Research Fellowship at Birkbeck, University of London, based in the Institute of Philosophy. Emily’s research interests are mainly in metaphysics, aesthetics, logic, philosophy of language and philosophy of sex. She is especially interested in the nature of fiction. Craig and Emily are currently working together on two projects: a book on the representation of time in fiction, which is under contract with Oxford University Press, and a second book on philosophical questions concerning interpersonal relationships, particularly sexual relationships, marriages, and family structures. Part of this work focusses on how we should respond to past discrimination on the basis of sexuality, looking especially at responses to Alan Turing's 1952 conviction for 'gross indecency'.

Paul Dillane is the Refugee Researcher at Amnesty International UK (AIUK) and a former immigration, refugee and human rights lawyer. He has for the past 9 years been engaged in representing foreign nationals seeking international protection in the UK, including persons who have been forced to flee their home country on account of their sexual orientation. Paul leads Amnesty's substantive engagement with refugee litigation in the UK and regularly provides opinions to assist decision makers, both governmental and judicial, in the determination of individual cases across a range of nationalities.

Venue website:
The Alan Turing Homepage – maintained by Andrew Hodges:

Sunday 24th February, 3pm

Jesus Lane Friends' Meeting House

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