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Crack the code—mural honouring queer hero Alan Turing unveiled at UK intelligence agency

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The 3D mural in the courtyard of GCHQ courtesy GCHQ/Joe Hill

The 3D mural in the courtyard of GCHQ courtesy GCHQ/Joe Hill

The UK’s intelligence agency, GCHQ, has come up with an ingenious way of honouring the wartime codebreaker and gay hero, Alan Turing. A vast work, created by the 3D artist Joe Hill in consultation with staff from GCHQ’s Pride network, takes pride of place at the GCHQ hub in Benhall, Gloucestershire. The rainbow-coloured piece shows Turing inside "drums" from the British Bombe, his machine designed to break Enigma-enciphered messages during the Second World War. The celebratory piece was unveiled yesterday on what would have been Turing’s 109th birthday (the Bletchley Park codebreaker took his own life in 1954 after being convicted of gross indecency). There is an extra element to the arty tribute—the mural contains 15 hidden codes that may take a while to decipher (these are very brainy puzzles). “Alan Turing was a genius who helped to shorten the war and influence the technology that still shapes our lives today. He was embraced for his brilliance but persecuted for being gay,” says GCHQ director, Jeremy Fleming. Turing is also the first LGBTQ person to be honoured on hard cash after a £50 note featuring his fine features entered circulation in the UK yesterday (thanks for everything Alan).

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