Richard Dawkins last night joined the campaign to win an official apology for Alan Turing, the code-breaking genius and father of the modern computer who committed suicide in 1954 after being prosecuted for being homosexual.
More than 2,500 people have now added their name to the on-line petition calling for the Government to recognise the "consequences of prejudice" that ended the life of the scientist aged just 41.
Professor Dawkins said that an apology would "send a signal to the world which needs to be sent", and that Turing would still be alive today if it were not for the repressive, religion-influenced laws which drove him to despair.
The author of The God Delusion, who is due to present a forthcoming television programme for Channel 4 on Turing, said the impact of the mathematician's war work could not be overstated. "Turing arguably made a greater contribution to defeating the Nazis than Eisenhower or Churchill. Thanks to Turing and his 'Ultra' colleagues at Bletchley Park, Allied generals in the field were consistently, over long periods of the war, privy to detailed German plans before the German generals had time to implement them.
"After the war, when Turing's role was no longer top-secret, he should have been knighted and fêted as a saviour of his nation. Instead, this gentle, stammering, eccentric genius was destroyed, for a 'crime', committed in private, which harmed nobody," he said. Professor Dawkins also called for a permanent financial endowment to support Bletchley Park, where Turing helped break the Nazi Enigma code.