Alan Turing, the gay British mathematics genius who helped create modern computing, has beaten out Nelson Mandela to be named the most iconic figure of the last century.
Turing, who was prosecuted for being gay, was chosen by the British public in a live broadcast of the finale of the BBC series Icons: The Greatest Person Of The 20th Century.
He was selected as the overall winner following the broadcast of 7 episodes highlighting the achievements of the 20th century’s most important and influential figures.
He was part of an impressive list of global game-changers such as Albert Einstein, Mohandas Gandhi, Dr Martin Luther King Jr, Pablo Picasso and Muhammad Ali. The candidates were placed in categories including artists and writers, activists, explorers, entertainers and scientists.
Turing is considered by many to be the father of modern computing, setting the foundation for technology that has reshaped the world. He also played a key role in breaking the Nazi Enigma code during World War II which shortened the war by years and saved thousands of lives.
The BBC noted that in addition to his technological and scientific achievements, Turing also helped change social attitudes in Britain towards LGBT people.
He was prosecuted in 1952 for homosexuality and was given the choice of imprisonment or chemical castration. Turing chose the latter and underwent forced oestrogen hormone injection treatment for a year before committing suicide from cyanide poisoning at the young age of 41.
In September 2009, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown issued a formal posthumous apology to Turing for his prosecution but the war hero’s conviction remained standing. In 2013, Turing was finally granted a posthumous royal pardon by the Queen, almost 60 years after his tragic suicide.
In 2017, around 65,000 men were pardoned by the UK government – through legislation known as Turing’s Law – for convictions under past laws that made consensual gay sex illegal.
Part of Turing’s life was immortalised in the 2014 Oscar-winning film, The Imitation Game.