Along with those who resided at 10 Downing Street, Alan Turing was among the most important Britons of the 20th century. A developer of the modern computer, the renowned mathematician helped shape the future of technology. He was also a World War II code breaker who helped crack the most impenetrable Nazi tool of secret communications, the famed Enigma code. No matter–in 1952 Turing was convicted of “gross indecency” for homosexuality, then a crime in England. As part of his sentence he was chemically castrated and subjected to estrogen treatments. Two years later he committed suicide. He was 41.
On Dec. 24, Turing finally received a posthumous royal pardon from Queen Elizabeth II. The widely supported campaign to secure the pardon began in earnest in 2009 when then Prime Minister Gordon Brown issued a formal apology on behalf of the nation. The Queen’s action last month is only the fourth royal pardon granted since World War II–the conflict Turing did so much to help his country win.