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Giant rainbow tribute to pioneering gay war hero Alan Turing unveiled at GCHQ

Lily Wakefield June 23, 2021
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rainbow Alan Turing artwork

The rainbow Alan Turing artwork was reveal on what would have been his 109th birthday. (GCHQ)

A giant artwork of Alan Turing has been revealed at the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), as he becomes the face of the new £50 note on his birthday (23 June).

The 10 by 10 metre rainbow artwork was created by artist Joe Hill in consultation with staff from GCHQ’s Pride network, and has been installed in the centre of the GCHQ hub in Benhall, Gloucestershire, which is known as the Doughnut.

The work features a portrait of Turing, surrounded by wheels from the British Bombe, a machine he designed to break the Enigma code in the Second World War. The artwork also includes 15 hidden codes.

The piece will not remain permanently at the intelligence agency, but will be donated to organisations chosen by GCHQ’s Pride Network.

There are 15 codes hidden in the artwork for viewers to decipher. (GCHQ)

Skylar, head of GCHQ’s Pride Network said: in a statement: “Alan Turing is a role model for many here at GCHQ and a global icon as an LGBT+ person in the field of science and technology.

“Though we should never forget the tragedy of his life being cut short, we should always endeavour to learn from his legacy and create a safer and better future for LGBT+ people.

“I am proud to see GCHQ recognising the importance Alan Turing has for LGBT+ people, owning its shared history with our community and doing so in such a public and bold way.”

Alan Turing was credited with shortening the Second World War.

Alan Turing joined the Government Code and Cypher School – GCHQ’s wartime name – in 1939, and soon proved himself to be a mathematical prodigy.

His work in breaking the Enigma code were credited with shortening the Second World War.

Tragically, in 1952, he prosecuted for “gross indecency” for being gay, and was forced to undergo chemical castration. He took his own life two years later.

As the £50 note featuring Turing went into circulation and the GCHQ artwork was revealed, GCHQ Sir Jeremy Fleming said in a statement:  “Alan Turing was a genius who helped to shorten the war and influence the technology that still shapes our lives today. He was embraced for his brilliance but persecuted for being gay.

“Turing’s legacy reminds us every day that diversity is essential and inclusion is mission critical to our organisation… Turing was and remains a beacon of hope for all who dare to live and think differently.”

 

Related topics: Alan Turing, GCHQ, World War Two

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