23 Jun 2012

Alan Turing: Inquest's suicide verdict 'not supportable'

Alan Turing, the British mathematical genius and codebreaker born 100 years ago on 23 June, may not have committed suicide, as is widely believed. At a conference in Oxford on Saturday, Turing expert Prof Jack Copeland will question the evidence that was presented at the 1954 inquest. He believes the evidence would not today be accepted as sufficient to establish a suicide verdict.


Indeed, he argues, Turing's death may equally probably have been an accident. What is well known and accepted is that Alan Turing died of cyanide poisoning. His housekeeper famously found the 41-year-old mathematician dead in his bed, with a half-eaten apple on his bedside table.

It is widely said that Turing had been haunted by the story of the poisoned apple in the fairy tale of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and had resorted to the same desperate measure to end the persecution he was suffering as a result of his homosexuality. But according to Prof Copeland, it was Turing's habit to take an apple at bedtime, and that it was quite usual for him not to finish it; the half-eaten remains found near his body cannot be seen as an indication of a deliberate act. Indeed, the police never tested the apple for the presence of cyanide.

BBC News - PM's apology to codebreaker Alan Turing: we were inhumane (The Guardian 2009)