Updated Friday, December 14, 2012 at 10:31 PM
LONDON – Stephen Hawking and other eminent scientists called Friday for the British government to pardon computer pioneer Alan Turing, who helped win World War II but was later prosecuted for homosexuality.
In a letter published in the Daily Telegraph newspaper, the famed physicist and 10 others urged Prime Minister David Cameron “formally to forgive the iconic British hero.”
The letter, whose signatories also included Astronomer Royal Martin Rees and Paul Nurse, president of the Royal Society, called Turing “one of the most brilliant mathematicians of the modern era.”
“It is time his reputation was unblemished,” it said.
Turing worked at Bletchley Park, the wartime code-breaking center, where he helped crack Nazi Germany’s secret codes by creating the “Turing bombe,” a forerunner of modern computers.
He also developed the “Turing Test” to measure artificial intelligence.
After the war, Turing was prosecuted for having sex with a man, stripped of his security clearance and forcibly treated with female hormones. He killed himself in 1954 at age 41 by eating an apple laced with cyanide.
Sex between men remained illegal in Britain until 1967.
In 2009, then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown made a public apology on behalf of the government for Turing’s “inhumane” treatment, saying: “We’re sorry, you deserved so much better.”