A petition calling for a government apology to gay mathematician Alan Turing has reached 17,900 signatures

It is now the eighth most popular petition on the Downing Street website. Only 500 signatures are needed for a government response.

Turing famously invented the Turing machine and cracked the German Enigma code during World War Two, but killed himself in 1954 aged 41 after being convicted of having a sexual relationship with another man.

He was given the choice of going to prison or undergoing chemical castration and opted for the latter.

The petition calls for a government apology for the way he was treated.

The campaign has been supported by figures such as Professor Richard Dawkins, writer Ian McEwan and human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.

In a statement, Tatchell said: “Not only should the government issue an official apology over the homophobic persecution of maths genius and war-time hero Alan Turing, it should give him a posthumous pardon.”

John Graham-Cumming, who set up the petition, told PinkNews.co.uk: “It’s somewhat overwhelming. Originally, i thought it would be hard to get 500 signatures, so 17,000 is stunning.

“My inbox is full of emails from around the world. Ian McEwan sent me a nice email to give his support and Peter Tatchell has also got involved.

“I’m trying to confirm whether some other famous names on the petition are genuine, such as the historian A C Grayling. And the Labour MP Tom Watson has also Tweeted that there should be a national monument to him.”

He added: “The signatures tripled in a day since the BBC ran a story about the petition.”

Turing was awarded an OBE in 1945 for his wartime services to the Foreign Offices. 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