This blog post was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Rosalind Campion portrait

Rosalind Campion

Counsellor for Global Issues

Part of UK in USA

25th June 2012 Washington DC, USA

An Enigma, an apology, and a hardcore commuter

In my last job, colleagues – even my lovely former boss, the now famous Lord Justice Leveson  would occasionally raise an eyebrow as I arrived with hair askew and rosy cheeks from cycling between meetings. Alas in DC, working at the top of a really fairly significant hill, I’ve reluctantly relinquished my addiction to the bike – at least as a means of getting me from one meeting to another. But when I read about Alan Turing, whose 100th birthday would have been yesterday, I start to fear that I lack commitment. Apparently Turing regularly ran the 40 miles from Bletchley Park to London for meetings during World War 2. Massachusetts Avenue on a humid late June Monday wouldn’t have got the better of him…

Alas, I suspect that our mutual enthusiasm for propelling ourselves to the office under our own steam (albeit his effort being rather more impressive than mine…), and of course our both being Brits who spent time working in the US (him during the UK/US security cooperation efforts in WW2), is probably the end of my similarities to Alan Turing. He was, of course, a mathematical genius, father of the computer and the key person behind the breaking of the German enigma code at Bletchley Park.  I left mathematics with considerable relief when I was 16 and I think it’s safe to say that I have no major inventions up my sleeve. But the occasion of his 100th birthday on Saturday struck me since I was working at the Ministry of Justice when the question of whether to apologise to Turing (for his prosecution for homosexuality and subsequent chemical castration) came up a few years ago.  I wasn’t involved in giving advice on the issue at all but it was interesting to be in the environs and hear some of the debate.  Requests that governments apologise abound these days for a plethora of reasons, of course, and many aren’t granted.

But the thing about Turing, of course, is how much both the UK and the US owe to him – in terms of his contribution to wartime success and in shaping the second half of the 20th century. And making the case graphically, I rather enjoyed Google’s Turing Machine doodle to celebrate his 100th birthday. Turing got his apology, and while it was sadly too late for him to appreciate it, the message of UK government’s ever increasing commitment to championing equality and combating discrimination was made clear.

And so, taking inspiration from Alan Turing on what would have been his 100th birthday, perhaps I shall revert to powering myself from one meeting to another, despite the giant hill.  At least until I’m entirely defeated by the Washington heat, anyway…

2 comments on “An Enigma, an apology, and a hardcore commuter

  1. Great people often admired more after they die, tragic really.
    The whole castration thing, ouch!

    and Keep up the cycling (as long as you can in East Coast heat!)

  2. A genius like Alan Turing thinks far ahead of his time, never fully understood by the contemporaries. Perhaps this lack of recognition causes such a predicament in them. If only had he got the necessary psychological attention, world would have preserved many better scientific developments.

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About Rosalind Campion

Rosalind Campion was appointed Counsellor for Global Issues at the British Embassy in Washington DC in 2011. Her team works on policy issues including trade, business, energy, the environment, science,…

Rosalind Campion was appointed Counsellor for Global Issues at the British Embassy in Washington DC in 2011. Her team works on policy issues including trade, business, energy, the environment, science, innovation and transport.

Originally a corporate lawyer working in London on intellectual property issues, Roz was most recently with the Ministry of Justice, where she set up and ran the Sentencing Council, the national organisation responsible for ensuring a consistent approach to criminal sentencing by the UK’s judiciary.

She has previous experience working on foreign policy issues, including during her time at the Ministry of Justice, as well as through her work with the UK’s Serious Organised Crime Agency and as a lawyer working on international law cases for a top human rights litigation firm.

During her time in academia, Roz was responsible for the public international law programme at School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London, where she specialised in international trade and environment law.

She lives in Georgetown with her partner, Dr Layla McCay.

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