Conspiracy Clinic
Alan Turing Did Not Commit Suicide
Alan Turing Alan Turing Plaque
Alan Turing: Source The Turing memorial plaque in Sackville Park. Photo by  Lmno on wikipedia - public domain image

Overview: Alan Mathison Turing was a mathematics genius who, amongst many things, invented the theory that led to the modern computer, and was one of the leading code breakers at Bletchly Park which, during World War Two, broke the German Enigma code.

He famously was found dead at the age of 41, in 1954, with a half eaten apple at the side of his bed and investigators concluded that he had died, intentionally, from cyanide poisoning. His mother and a number of other supporters at the time disagreed with the verdict.

Turing was an open homosexual, which was illegal in the UK at the time. He was prosecuted for it in 1952. Rather than serve a custodial sentence he chose chemical castration which altered his moods, it is supposed, and made him grow breasts, it is reported. Due to this, the official verdict goes, he became depressed and ultimately killed himself.

But did he?

Speaking on the 100th anniversary of Alan Turing's birth on 23rd June 2012, Professor of Philosophy Jack Copeland, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand, questioned the evidence given to the inquiry in 1954...

 

The main claims that Alan Turing did not kill himself intentionally are:

Turing was experimenting with cyanide peroxide - he had some in his house. He was attempting to electrolyze gold onto a spoon and needed the cyanide peroxide for the experiment. He seemed to be, perhaps, more than slightly careless, as it was discovered he had wired the electrolysis circuit to a light socket. In other experiments he had received electric shocks. He was known to recklessly taste chemicals. It is possible he accidentally inhaled cyanide fumes which killed him. The room smelled of cyanide, it is said, when his body was found. (Note: It has been argued that Turing affected these experiments to make it look like an accident to help his mother come to terms with what he had done)

Alan Turing often ate an apple at bedtime, so finding a half eaten one isn't unusual and certainly shouldn't be seen as a sign he used it to commit suicide

The apple was never tested for cyanide (the theory was always that he had dipped the apple into cyanide and then ate it to kill himself)

There was no evidence of premeditation - no suicide note (indeed he left notes on his desk for work to be done next week as he usually did); he seemed to be in a cheerful mood in the days leading up to his death - including a happy tea party with neighbour and her son 4 days before his death

Turing's career, says Prof Jack Copeland, was at an all time high, why would he want to intentionally kill himself?

His friend Robin Gandy stayed with Turing a week before his death. Gandy says Alan 'seemed, if anything, happier than usual'

The inquest was so bad that Turing could even have been murdered - it is unclear who would have wanted to murder him - his work at Bletchly Park was under strict secrecy until well after his death

 

Alan Turing: Inquest's suicide verdict 'not supportable': http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-18561092

Did Alan Turing Really Commit Suicide?: http://www.streetarticles.com/news-and-society/did-alan-turing-really-commit-suicide

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Turing

Correction: In an earlier version of this page we stated that Apple Inc's logo of an apple with a bite taken out of it was a tribute to Alan Turing. We understand that this is not the case. We understand Stephen Fry questioned Steve Jobs about this and the reply was that the logo was more a comment on Apple the record label used by The Beatles.