ALAN TURING, 1912-54
Alan Mathison Turing (23 June 1912 – 7 June 1954) was an English mathematician, widely considered to be the father of theoretical computer science, who played a critical role in Allied victory in the 2nd World War through his cracking of intercepted German coded messages.
In 1952, Turing was convicted of the homosexual offence of “gross indecency” and subjected to chemical castration for a year as an alternative to imprisonment, and this is widely believed to have contributed to his otherwise mysterious suicide two years later.
In the 21st century, with the importance of Turing’s war-time role much better appreciated, gay rights activists promoted him as a gay hero and victim of the unjust law that had criminalised sex between men before 1967, resulting in him being posthumously pardoned in 2013, and in the 2017 law which retroactively exonerated other men convicted of sex with men becoming known as the Alan Turing law.
Turing described himself as “a homosexual.” The purpose of this article is to present what is known about the character of his homosexuality so that the reader can judge if he was truly representative of the lifestyle and values that the gay community espouses and the British government now defends, or whether he was more of a pederast, with feelings and beliefs they harshly condemn, in which case both are dishonest and hypocritical in pretending that he was otherwise.
Alan Turing: The Enigma (1983) by Andrew Hodges
Hodges’s biography of Turing, first published in 1983 is much the most detailed yet and the basis for The Imitation Game, a major Hollywood film of 2014 that is the main source of Turing’s international fame. However, unlike the book, the film suppressed all the evidence as to the age of the males to whom Turing was attracted, including the one he was convicted of sex with, inevitably leading most viewers to assume that the gay hype was justified and thus that Turing was attracted to mature men of fairly similar age to himself.
In what follows, everything is noted that Hodges reported which sheds light on three questions about Turing. The references are to the edition published by Vintage (London, 2014).
1. Whom did Turing have sex with or find sexually attractive?
Here are listed the males reported by Hodges to have had sex with Turing or to have sexually attracted him. Only two of the former are firmly reported, together with vague implications of sex with unnamed others.
A. Christopher Morcom
Hodges describes at length Turing’s friendship with a slightly older boy in another house at Sherborne, his public school, who was born on 13 July 1911 and was therefore fifteen at the time begins its story. The friendship continued until Morcom’s sudden death aged 18 in February 1930, without Turing having declared his love, less still had any kind of sex with him.
Alan had first noticed Christopher Morcom early in 1927, and had been very struck by him, partly because he was surprisingly small for his form. (He was a year older than Alan and a year ahead in the school, but fair-haired and slight.) It was also, however, because he ‘wanted to look again at his face, as he felt so attracted.’ Later in 1927 Christopher had been away from school […] He again returned late to school this term, but when he arrived Alan was waiting for him.
His utter loneliness was pierced at last. […] This was first love, which Alan would himself come to regard as the first of many for others of his own sex. It had that sense of surrender (‘worshipped the ground he trod on’), and a heightened awareness, as of brilliant colour bursting upon a black and white world. (‘He made everyone else seem so ordinary.’) [pp. 45-6]
B. Kenneth Harrison
Hodges on Turing around January 1932, when Turing was 19:
There was also the other problem of mental and physical balance, for he fell in love again, this time with Kenneth Harrison, who was another King’s scholar of his year, studying the Natural Sciences Tripos. Alan talked to him a good deal about Christopher, and it became clear that Kenneth, who also had fair hair and blue eyes, and who also was a scientist, had become a sort of reincarnation of his first great flame. One difference, however, was that Alan did speak up for his own feelings, as he would never have dared with Christopher. They did not meet with reciprocation, but Kenneth admired the straightforwardness of his approach, and did not let it stop them from talking about science. [p. 81]
C. James Atkins
Atkins was in Turing’s year at Cambridge University, so presumably close in age to him. Their affair begin June 1933, when Turing was 21. In September 1937, they attempted to revive it for a weekend in September 1937, when Atkins was presumably about 25 and easily the oldest person Hodges ever mentions as having sex with Turing:
Alan must have found it a relief to be with someone who did not reject his sexual advances, although it was always clear that James aroused in him neither deep feelings, nor a special physical attraction. The relationship was not able to develop beyond this point. After this weekend, James had almost no further experience for about twelve years. Although Alan was more exploratory, this would be his story too. His life would not change until much water had flowed under the bridge. [p. 173]
D. Robert Augenfeld
Hodges on Turing after describing how in February 1939 Turing decided to sponsor a Jewish refugee boy called Robert Augenfeld, then fourteen, and sixteen when Turing, aged 28, tried gentle seduction:
His father wrote asking ‘Is it wise, people will misunderstand?’ which annoyed Alan, although David Champernowne thought his father had a good point. […]
In August or September 1940 Alan had a week’s holiday, and spent it with Bob, making an effort to give the boy a treat. He had arranged for them to stay at what was for Alan a smart hotel, a renovated castle near Pandy, in Wales. […] They went fishing and for long walks over the hills. After a day or two Alan made a gentle sexual approach, but Bob rebuffed it. Alan did not ask again. It did not affect the holiday. Bob perceived that the possibility had been at the back of Alan’s mind from the beginning, but did not feel that Alan had taken advantage of him. He was simply not interested. [pp. 191 & 243-4]
E. Pageboys, with vague reference to two royal ones in particular
Describing Turing’s life at King’s College Cambridge, from his resumption of his fellowship there on 30 September 1947, Hodges mentions this important testimony from Robin Gandy, which is more authoritatively presented again later in this article in Gandy’s own words. The only discrepancy is that Hodges says Gandy described “a rank of pageboys”, whereas Gandy himself correctly states that there were only two. As will be seen from the captions to the accompanying photographs, they were aged five and six.
One friend immediately stood out from the rest. Robin Gandy had taken Part III of the Mathematical Tripos that summer, and was now working in theoretical physics towards a fellowship. Soon after term began, Robin called on Alan and asked if he could borrow his copy of Eisenhart’s book on continuous groups. Alan took it off the shelf, and out fluttered a newspaper picture of a rank of pageboys at Princess Elizabeth’s wedding. There was someone else in the room, probably Robin’s physicist friend Keith Roberts, and Alan only said darkly ‘You’ll find nice pages like that in my books.’ But next morning, Alan said to him, ‘We know each other quite well now . . . I might as well tell you that I am a homosexual.’ [p. 467]
F. Manchester rent boys 1950-1
At least in his last years, Turing seems to have had sex with others besides the two named in this list. In 1952, he told Joan Clarke, his former fiancée, that he ‘did occasionally practise.’ Hodges suggests he had very little sexual experience until 1950, when he settled in a house he bought outside Manchester, having been inhibited by shyness and ignorance of the opportunities, but that this then changed:
There might well have been another kind of occasional visitor to his life, if not to his house, one that came through the trade entrance. […] Before the war he would have been too shy, but by 1950 he had made some discoveries.” [p. 539]
The discoveries are then discovered to be young males who could be found on the streets of Manchester and enjoyed for a “quid pro quo”. No names or ages are given.
G. Naked youths in 1950
England had its opportunities too. Alan always used to stay in the YMCA in London, if only because it would hardly occur to him to pay to stay anywhere grander, and this would have held something for his eye in the shape of naked youths in its swimming pool, if nothing more. [p. 539]
H. Arnold Murray
Turing pleaded guilty to a criminal charge of having had sex with this unemployed, working-class youth of 19 several times between 17 December 1951 and 2 Feb. 1952. Murray, a street encounter who “touched Alan’s soft spot for lost lambs”, “borrowed” money from him, and, he suspected, stole it. Their friendship led another youth who knew of Murray’s “business” to burgle his house, which is what brought the affair to the attention of the police. [the quotations here are all from Hodges’ description, pp. 566-573]
I. Kjell, a Norwegian
Turing to his friend Norman Routledge in a letter of 22 February 1953:
“I’ve had another round with the gendarmes, and it’s positively round II to Turing. Half the police of N. England (by one report) were out searching for a supposed boyfriend of mine. It was all a mare’s nest. Perfect virtue and chastity had governed all our proceedings. But the poor sweeties never knew this. A very light kiss beneath a foreign flag under the influence of drink, was all that had ever occurred.” [quoted p. xxx]
Hodges only adds to this that it refers to his holiday in Norway in the summer of 1952, when he was “particularly struck by one young man” named Kjell, whose age is never indicated. Their meeting took place during the year Turing was impotent due to the chemical castration he was subjected to. [pp. 599-600]
J. A youth in 1953
Once he amazed Mrs Greenbaum by his excitement over a youth in the next-door garden whom she did not think at all attractive. [p. 612]
K. Parisian and Greek boys
… In this summer of 1953, probably over the period of the coronation, Caliban escaped from the island for his brief ration of fun, to Paris for a short while, and then to Corfu. He would return with half a dozen Greek names and addresses, although from this point of view his exploration of the eastern Mediterranean proved disappointing. As at school, he made mistakes with the French, but still did better than with the Greek. On the beach in Corfu, with the dark mountains of Albania on the horizon, he could study both the seaweed and the boys. [p. 612]
2. Did Turing think of those who attracted him as men or boys?
Three quotations of Turing’s own words shed light on this question. Two show that he could think of a youth of 19 with whom he was sexually involved as either a “boy” or a “young man.” The third shows that generally he thought of those who attracted him as “boys”.
Turing’s own words summarising the trouble from his affair with nineteen-year-old Arnold Murray in a letter to his friend Fred Clayton, February 1952:
“I had got a boy friend, who . . . put his friends on to my house. One of these has been picked up by the police and has informed against us.” [p. 585]
Turing in a letter of February 1952 to his friend Norman Routledge on the same subject:
“I shall shortly be pleading guilty to a charge of sexual offences with a young man.” [quoted p. 30]
Turing quoted by his friend Lyn Newman in a letter to another friend in 1957:
‘Dear Alan, I remember his saying to me so simply & sadly “I just can’t believe it’s as nice to go to bed with a girl as with a boy” and all I could say was “I entirely agree with you – I also much prefer boys.” ‘ [quoted p. xix]
3. What did Turing think about Greek love?
A man attracted to boys need not want to act on his feelings or to believe that Greek love can be good. Two passages by Hodges shed light on what Turing thought, the first implying he thought Greek love was fine as long as the boy involved was readily willing, and the second suggesting he found the plight of an adolescent boy attracted to a man a fine subject for literary endeavour.
Alan Turing, however, had no interest in ordering other people, while he retained an almost untouched innocence of ‘why not?’ in respect of sex. He did agree with Robin [Gandy] that one should not persist with efforts to gain the interest of a boy of less than fifteen or so. (Robin had attracted a good deal of attention as a boy, and a too enthusiastic admirer had had the effect of putting him off sex for a time.) [p. 607]
the American novel Finistere which had appeared in 1951, was much admired by Alan. It described the relationship between a fifteen-year-old boy and his teacher, and like The Cloven Pine tried to see life through teenage eyes. [p. 613]
The Strange Life and Death of Dr Turing
The following short excerpt (video here) from this fifty-minute British documentary on Turing’s life, written and produced by Christopher Sykes in 1992 repeats what Turing’s friend and fellow mathematician Dr. Robin Gandy had already told Hodges for his book above, but is presumably more accurate since it is in Gandy’s own words. As the conversation took place soon after Turing’s return to Cambridge in September 1947, it was presumably very soon after the wedding referred to, that of Princess Elizabeth on 20 November 1947:
27:50 Narrator: He renewed his friendship with Robin Gandy, now a Cambridge graduate student.
27:54 Gandy: He lent me a book—a mathematical book—and as I took it, a page fluttered out of it, which was a photograph of two page boys at the royal wedding. And—someone else was with us—and he just said, “Oh yes, you find pretty pictures like that in my books.” Then the next day he came to me and said, “I think you ought to know.” And, he was very relieved to find when…I mean I have known a lot of homosexuals in my time, and that I wasn’t in the least bit shocked, or didn’t think it extraordinary. And, of course, that made a much closer bond in our friendship.
The extensive evidence presented shows that Turing thought of the males he was attracted to as boys, that he saw nothing wrong with sex between men and willing boys, and that, in at least one case, he attempted gentle seduction of a boy he had been attracted to since his early teens.
The full age range of those who attracted to him might be tenuously argued to be as great as six to twenty-five, based at one end on the indirect link drawn between his homosexuality and the pages at the royal wedding of 1947, and based at the other end on his single weekend of sex with James Atkins in 1937.
However, it seems fairer to conclude that he was seriously only attracted to those from their early teens to their early twenties. The Atkins weekend was a single unsuccessful revival of an old affair with someone he found in the event he was not attracted to. Though he drew a clear link between his homosexuality and his collecting pictures of nice pageboys, to assert that he was sexually attracted to the boys in every such picture, including the 5-6 year-olds at the royal wedding (rather than simply finding them sweet) involves an unwarranted jump in logic. Pageboys at other functions were generally older than this. King George VI’s Pages of Honour, for example, were in their early teens.
 According to the admissions records of Rossall School, where Turing sponsored the boy’s admission in the second term of 1939, “Augenfeld, Robert F., … now R. F. Arnfield; formerly with Unilevers in Bangkok; now with Anne Shaw organisation”, was born on 3 April 1924, and was therefore 14 when he first “perceived that the possibility [of sex] had been at the back of Alan’s mind.” (Rossall School Register, 8th edition, 1881-1954 (London, 1956) p. 387.
 Augenfeld is listed as one of Hodges’s contributors, so was presumably the direct source of this information.
 Hodges is careful to point out that when he was writing, contrary to popular myth, Turing would not have fared better: “Prosecutions for homosexual offences, furthermore, have roughly trebled since 1967, and currently run at twice the 1952 level. State control of sexuality has changed since the 1950s, but the elements of youth and of street life are ‘viewed as’ crimes as much now as then.” (p. 672). After 1994, Murray’s youth would not have been a legal issue, but soliciting would have, while social disapproval of a man having sex with a youth less than half his age could hardly be harsher in the 21st century. Moreover, it is instructive to imagine the rage and hatred the British masses of the 21st century would feel towards a man like Turing who admitted attraction to pageboys and propositioned a mid teen.
 Finistère by Fritz Peters is about an American boy living in France who finally drowns himself when his mother expresses revulsion towards him for his revelation that he has been having a love affair with his teacher.