More than 4,800 people have signed a petition calling on the government to apologise for the way in which gay computing genius Alan Turing was treated during his lifetime.

Professor Richard Dawkins has joined the calls for the government to apologise to Mr Turing, who committed suicide after being jailed for homosexuality.

In his 2008 work The Oxford Book of Modern Science Writing, Professor Dawkins paid tribute to the mathematician.

“Turing arguably made a greater contribution to defeating the Nazis than Eisenhower or Churchill,” he wrote.

“Thanks to Turing and his ‘Ultra’ colleagues at Bletchley Park, Allied generals in the field were consistently, over long periods of the war, privy to detailed German plans before the German generals had time to implement them.

“After the war, when Turing’s role was no longer top-secret, he should have been knighted and fêted as a saviour of his nation.

“Instead, this gentle, stammering, eccentric genius was destroyed, for a ‘crime’, committed in private, which harmed nobody.”

Programmer John Graham-Cumming has set up an online petition to call for a government apology to Turing for his prosecution.

It reads:

“Alan Turing was the greatest computer scientist ever born in Britain.

“He laid the foundations of computing, helped break the Nazi Enigma code and told us how to tell whether a machine could think.

“He was also gay.

“He was prosecuted for being gay, chemically castrated as a ‘cure’, and took his own life, aged 41.

“The British Government should apologise to Alan Turing for his treatment and recognise that his work created much of the world we live in and saved us from Nazi Germany.

“An apology would recognise the tragic consequences of prejudice that ended this man’s life and career.”

The petition will be open for signatures until January.

Turing was awarded an OBE in 1945 for his wartime services to the Foreign Office. He has received many posthumous awards.

The computing world’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize, given each year by the Association for Computing Machinery, has been called the Turing Award since 1966.

To sign the petition, click here.