Any books on Turing that focus on the trial/his identity?
June 2, 2019 2:23 PM   Subscribe

My LGBT-identified kid is trying to research Turing's chemical castration, but having a really difficult time - she's been reading book after book, but most of them focus on other aspects of his life and mention the trial only in passing. Is there a good book - preferably for Kindle - that goes into this in more depth or uses the 2016 court records release?
posted by corb to Law & Government (9 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
From what I can tell from the Amazon previews, the last chapter of Andrew Hodges' Alan Turing: The Enigma goes into the history of chemical castration in the UK and Turing's experience with it. It was published before 2016, though, so it wouldn't include the court records release.
posted by Johnny Assay at 2:43 PM on June 2 [2 favorites]

Medical treatment to 'cure' homosexuality was permitted under the Criminal Justice Act 1948, section 4, which made provision for 'treatment by or under the direction of a duly qualified medical practitioner with a view to the improvement of the offender's mental condition'.

The use of chemical castration was recommended in a paper, 'Hormone Treatment of the Sexual Offender', by F.L. Golla and R. Sessions Hodge, published in The Lancet in 1949. (The lead author, Frederick Lucien Golla, was director of the Burden Neurological Institute, Bristol, where he also pioneered the use of ECT and lobotomy.) Golla and Hodge proposed a course of oestrogen injections 'to abolish libido temporarily in persons complaining of an uncontrollable sexual urge that had led to trouble'. In cases where 'for psychological reasons the prompt abolition of libido within the first fortnight' was required, the treatment took the form of daily injections of estradiol benzoate. In other cases it took the form of estrone tablets administered orally. The authors concluded: 'In view of the non-mutilating nature of this treatment and the ease with which it can be administered to a consenting patient we believe that it should be adopted wherever possible in male cases of abnormal and uncontrollable sexual urge.'

For further details, see Andrew Hodges' biography of Turing, and Brian Lewis, Wolfenden's Witnesses: Homosexuality in Postwar Britain (2016). Turing pleaded guilty to the charge of gross indecency (although, as Hodges writes, he was 'guilty of something for which he showed no guilt') and opted for hormone treatment in order to avoid prison.

The sentence read: 'Placed on Probation for a period of Twelve Months. To submit for treatment by a duly qualified medical practitioner at Manchester Royal Infirmary.' The court file was put on public display for the first time in 2016 but, as far as I know, contains no information about the trial that was not already in Hodges' biography.
posted by verstegan at 3:28 PM on June 2 [1 favorite]

It has been theorized that his death by cyanide poisoning was accidental and not suicide. He had the habit of eating an apple at bedtime, often leaving it half eaten by the bed, and the half-apple found was never tested for cyanide.

Meanwhile, he had been conducting various chemical experiments in his house as hobby, and some of his projects, like gold-plating spons, involved copious amounts of potassium cyanide, with which he was rather casual.
posted by w0mbat at 3:42 PM on June 2

In the MF thread about Turing's pardon, thelonius contributed an excellent BBC link which discusses doubts about the verdict of suicide and has some interesting information about Turing's reaction to the chemical castration and his mood just prior to his death that I haven't seen in other places.
posted by jamjam at 3:51 PM on June 2

Which is the same link that w0mbat mentions.
posted by jamjam at 3:53 PM on June 2

You want the Andrew Hodges biography. It's by far the best book on Turing's life.

(If I recall correctly, the last chapter is more general LGBT history after Turing's death, but one of the earlier chapters will be what she's looking for.)
posted by hoyland at 5:52 PM on June 2 [3 favorites]

If you/she are happy with fiction, Will Eaves' Murmur (recently out in the US) is about Turing and, as Eaves is gay, he focuses on this issue in some detail.
posted by TheRaven at 2:07 AM on June 3

Came here to recommend Hodges as the most comprehensive biography. 2nding as above.
posted by BAKERSFIELD! at 8:24 AM on June 3

Yes Hodges' book is still the definitive biography. The author has a charming website for the book where he occasionally posts updates or extra material. It's a bit disorganized, poke around. I didn't realize there was new material released in 2016. I can't find any reference to it from Hodges, that surprises me a bit.
posted by Nelson at 6:37 PM on June 3

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