Alan Turing, Gay Pride, and Gay Science

“A Great science fiction detective story”
-
Ian Watson, author of The Universal Machine

Luck and Death at the Edge of the World

Days to Centenary: 77

The Turing Tenner Showdown deadline has been extended for a final time to May 31! Design the best £10 note honouring Alan Turing and win prizes!

So why May 31?  Because it gives people time to submit their best designs, it allows time to decide on a winner, and most importantly it gives us time to get the winning design out to LGBT groups all over the world before Pride celebrations start.

Once Pride gets going, whether you´re in San Francisco, London, or Hamburg, the Turing Tenner should be circulating like confetti.

Go here for details.

Organizers have announced that this year´s Gay Pride Festival in Manchester will have the theme ‘Queer’d Science’ in honour of Alan Turing.

It seems to me that in the Alan Turing Year every Pride celebration from Pride Toronto to São Paulo Gay Pride (the largest in the world) should have a queer science theme, or at least an event or exhibit devoted to Turing and LGBT  scientists, but Manchester´s decision is a damned fine start.

Toronto Pride 2008 (c) Nassau Hedron

Toronto Pride 2008 (c) Nassau Hedron

The LGBT community has long had a strong association with the arts, but part of normalizing sexual diversity is recognizing that it´s found everywhere.  There are gay artists and writers, but there are gay politicians, lesbian genetic researchers, and bisexual bankers.

Heck, if professional hockey players can associate themselves with sexual diversity through the You Can Play campaign , then surely we science geeks can embrace our diverse roots.

In that spirit, and as a kind of warm-up exercise to limber ourselves up for Gay Pride, here are a few LGBT science greats, some well known to the public at large, some known primarily within their own fields.

The list isn´t short, and even with a very short bio it takes time to do each person justice, so I´ll start today and finish tomorrow.

James B. Pollack (1938–1994) was an openly gay American astrophysicist and a student and friend of Carl Sagan who worked for NASA’s Ames Research Center.  In 1989 he received the Gerard P. Kuiper Prize for outstanding lifetime achievement in the field of planetary science.

Sir Francis Bacon (1561–1626).  Not to be confused with the painter Francis Bacon (1909–1992), who was also gay.  There is some argument about whether Bacon preferred relationships with men or women, but no doubt that he had both.  Bacon was a philosopher of science and has been referred to as “the high priest of modern science” for setting out the principles of the scientific method, laying down the principles for scientific enquiry in general just as Turing laid down the principles that would guide the development of the computer.  He was also a statesman, acting as bothAttorney General and Lord Chancellor of England.
Sara Josephine Baker (1873–1945) Another person with a name double, and not to be confused with the awesome dancer, civil rights activist, and bisexual Josephine Baker. The scientific Josephine Baker was an American physician and publi health pioneer.  She was also apparently a morbid stand’up comedian with a social conscience, sort of like a female Lenny Bruce with an M.D., once commenting on the lives of the poor in the U.S. by observing that a person was more likely to die by being born in the United States than as a soldier in World War I.
Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519).  Never heard of this bloke, but apparently he used to be famous once or something.
More scientists to come!
A Note about”Gay Science”:  The title of this post includes the words “gay science” and some of you will be thinking, hang on a minute, I´ve heard that somewhere.  That´s because that crazy dude Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche — the one who said that God was dead and who invented Superman, or wait, maybe it was the superman — wrote a book called The Gay Science, but since it was published in 1882 he didn´t mean gay the way we mean gay.  He was using a common phrase of the day for the skill required to write poetry, which the book contained. As far as I know he wasn´t gay.
Toronto Pride 2008 (c) Nassau Hedron

Toronto Pride 2008 (c) Nassau Hedron

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s