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LONDON, England (CNN) -- An online petition demanding a formal apology from the British government for its treatment of World War II code-breaker Alan Turing is gaining momentum.
Turing was subjected to chemical castration in 1952 after being found guilty of the charge of gross indecency for having a homosexual relationship, an illegal act at the time. He committed suicide two years later.
More than 19,000 people have added their names to the petition on the UK Government Web site since it opened three weeks ago, urging the government to "recognize the tragic consequences of prejudice that ended this man's life and career."
The petition was created by computer scientist John Graham-Cumming, who said he grew "mad" at the country's memory of a man he says should be considered one of its national heroes.
"I'm looking for an apology from the British government because that's where I think the wrong was done. But Turing is clearly someone of international stature," Graham-Cumming said.
Alan Mathison Turing, OBE, FRS (pronounced /ˈtjʊ(ə)rɪŋ/) (23 June 1912 – 7 June 1954) was a British mathematician, logician, cryptanalyst and computer scientist.
Turing is often considered to be the father of modern computer science. He provided an influential formalisation of the concept of the algorithm and computation with the Turing machine. In 1999 Time Magazine named Turing as one of the 100 most important people of the 20th century for his role in the creation of the modern computer, stating: "The fact remains that everyone who taps at a keyboard, opening a spreadsheet or a word-processing program, is working on an incarnation of a Turing machine."
With the Turing test, meanwhile, he made a significant and characteristically provocative contribution to the debate regarding artificial intelligence: whether it will ever be possible to say that a machine is conscious and can think. He later worked at the National Physical Laboratory, creating one of the first designs for a stored-program computer, the ACE, although it was never actually built in its full form. In 1948, he moved to the University of Manchester to work on the Manchester Mark 1, then emerging as one of the world's earliest true computers.
During the Second World War, Turing worked at Bletchley Park, Britain's codebreaking centre, and was for a time head of Hut 8, the section responsible for German naval cryptanalysis. He devised a number of techniques for breaking German ciphers, including the method of the bombe, an electromechanical machine that could find settings for the Enigma machine.
Near the end of his life Turing became interested in chemistry. He wrote a paper on the chemical basis of morphogenesis and he predicted oscillating chemical reactions such as the Belousov–Zhabotinsky reaction, which were first observed in the 1960s.