Alan Turing was a great British mathematician and thinker who helped bring down the Nazi regime by developing computer systems and techniques to decode their encrypted war messages. He was a pioneer not only in cryptography but also in logic, computation, artificial intelligence, human-computer interaction, and even biology.
Turing's ideas foreshadowed a world in which global conflicts are fought more often with cryptography than with guns, where individuals desperately strive to keep even the smallest aspects of their lives secret from hackers and agencies, and where people spend more time interacting with computers than other humans.
Alas, after the war, instead of being honored like the hero he was, Alan Turing was prosecuted and harshly punished solely because he was gay. The situation was exacerbated due to his poor social skills; even though Turing was one of the most brilliant mathematicians in history, he was barely capable of handling rudimentary interactions with people, much less defend himself in the prejudiced and socially complex criminal courts of the time.
Alan Turing’s life story is a glaring reminder of why society sometimes makes it necessary to keep parts of our lives private. His suffering and untimely end are also a testament to the incredible cruelty that has been enacted, and that continues to be inflicted around the world upon those who are different.