Unsung gay hero of a secret war is honoured with road sign

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The Independent Online
THE GREAT contribution to twentieth-century science of Alan Turing, mathematician, wartime code-breaker and designer of the first electronic computer, is about to achieve belated - if limited - public recognition.

Nearly 40 years after his death, Manchester is to name a section of its new ring road after the homosexual scientist.

If it seems a poor honour for one of the great minds of the age, at least it is something. There were no official awards for Dr Turing, who led the team that read the German Enigma codes in the Second World War. He committed suicide in 1954 after being prosecuted for indecency when aged 41 and working at Manchester University.

After the war, Dr Turing again became involved with the security services but his work at the GCHQ telecommunications centre came to an end when he became a victim of the anti-gay atmosphere of the 1950s. Despite his war record, he was not permitted to visit the United States after his homosexuality was revealed.

In 1938 he was recruited to the cypher school at Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire, called 'Britain's secret weapon' by Churchill. The breaking of the Enigma cyphers there enabled the Allies to anticipate many German military and and naval operations, uncluding U-boat attacks.

From 1948, he worked on the Manchester Automatic Digital Machine, the largest computer in the world at that time.

According to friends he was open about his homosexuality, although not ostentatious. He was forced to receive hormone treatment as a condition of being given probation on pleading guilty to charges of gross indecency. The drugs, designed to dampen his libido, made him grow breasts. He committed suicide by eating an apple dipped in cyanide.

Dr Turing was the hero of Breaking the Code, a west-end play by Hugh Whitemore in 1986. Graham Stringer, leader of Manchester City Council, said: 'Alan Turing has never received the recognition to which he is entitled. We now have a chance to put that right.'