Stephen Hawking and other eminent scientists called Friday for the British government to pardon computer pioneer Alan Turing, who helped win World War II but was later prosecuted for homosexuality.
In a letter published in the Daily Telegraph newspaper, Hawking and 10 others urged Prime Minister David Cameron “formally to forgive the iconic British hero.” The letter, whose signatories also include Astronomer Royal Martin Rees and Paul Nurse, president of the Royal Society, called Turing “one of the most brilliant mathematicians of the modern era.”
"I am already a half starving man. To preserve my brains I want food and this is my first consideration. Any sympathetic letter from you will be helpful to me here to get a scholarship either from the university of from the government."
-Srinivasa Ramanujan (1887-1920), then a 26-year-old clerk from India, writing to English mathematician G.H. Hardy. By the time Ramanujan died, seven years later, he had cemented a reputation as one of the greatest mathematicians of all time. Hardy later recalled seeing Ramanujan’s theorems and thinking that they “must be true, because, if they were not true, no one would have the imagination to invent them.”
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"When I got home that evening, I cried. Not because I felt sorry for him, or because I realized what it is that I probably take for granted every day. I cried because I felt a fundamentally human urge to connect with this man — an icon of brilliance in a world sorely lacking — and I simply couldn’t figure out how."
"Imagining living in a universe without purpose may prepare us to better face reality head on. I cannot see that this is such a bad thing. Living in a strange and remarkable universe that is the way it is, independent of our desires and hopes, is far more satisfying for me than living in a fairy-tale universe invented to justify our existence."