Monday, 23 July 2012

Interview with Andrew Hodges. Part 3

This week concludes the serialisation of my interview with Andrew Hodges. The final questions I asked looked at the much bigger picture of Alan's legacy.

Once again, if you are interested in reading more about Andrew Hodges you can find his website here and his book can be bought from here.

What is your opinion of the successful 2009 poll to have the government apologise for Alan’s treatment?
Well I disagreed with the wording of the petition because it was too specific to Turing; it didn’t take into account the hundreds of thousands of other people who were in similar positions. But on the other hand I warmed to it a lot as Gordon Brown’s apology was very, very, good and brought out all of these wider points and linked them in a similar way to that which I had done in my book.
Gordon Brown's apology to Alan Turing. Signed and donated to Bletchley Park by Gordon Brown.
My point of view, coming from the gay rights perspective, is that Turing’s case was simply an extreme example of what society was like, what the effect of legislation was like here and what it will be like in other countries now. The evil is not what happened to the individual it is what it happens generally and Alan illustrates this very clearly with his story. That is how it struck me in ’73 and I haven’t changed from that point of view. The story is very vivid but the message is much more general. So I think this apology is too much mixed up in people thinking that we have to rescue this great scientist, rather than seeing a human rights question in general.

It is hard to know what Alan would have thought but I believe he would have thought the whole system was wrong rather than simply wanting an excuse for himself.

Does your interest in Turing’s story still continue? For example have you taken an interest in Bletchley Park recently getting Alan’s papers back?

Ah well let me put you right there. They didn’t get his papers back. They simply got Max Newman’s copies of Turing’s published papers. More positively, its great that Turing’s actual papers are preserved at King’s College, Cambridge.

Back to your original question, I revived my interest in the mid 90s as the internet was beginning to grow and I’ve written another shorter book on Turing as a philosopher as well as a number of smaller academic papers. On the whole I am very happy to leave everything to other people who have become great experts in some particular area of his life, whereas my strength was to see all of these links as a whole.

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