Honouring LGBT+ Inventors

Honouring LGBT+ Inventors

The month of February marks LGBT+ History Month, and this year the theme is “Outing the Past”. This means a celebration of the work of LGBT+ people throughout history, and the commemoration of their achievements and struggles. 

Throughout history, there have been countless LGBT+ innovators whose ideas and inventions have changed the world, and the way we live our lives today. Often, due to institutional and societal discrimination, their work in its full authenticity goes unnoticed. 

Perhaps the most famous LGBT+ scientist, partly thanks to award-winning film “The Imitation Game”, Alan Turing’s ground-breaking work has primarily been acknowledged posthumously. For the entirety of Turing’s life, from his birth in 1912 to his untimely death in 1954, homosexuality was a crime, punishable by hormone therapy, or sometimes even a prison sentence. It wasn’t until 1967 that homosexuality was legalised, although even this was only partial.

Despite the enormous setbacks his homosexual identity posed at the time, as biographer Andrew Hodges notes, Turing is considered as a "founder of computer science, mathematician, philosopher, codebreaker, strange visionary and a gay man before his time”. His most celebrated and impactful achievement is the cracking of the Enigma machine codes. Supposedly indecipherable, Enigma was used by the German government to send coded information across the world to important military personnel. Turing’s work to decipher it is believed to have shortened the Second World War by years.

This is not Turing’s only revolutionary work, however. During his time at the University of Cambridge, Turing published papers that we now recognise to be the very foundation of computer science as we know it today. His 1950 paper, “Computing Machinery and Intelligence”, details the potential for development of “machines that can think”.

Considered to be one of the earliest papers on artificial intelligence, although this term itself wasn’t coined until around five years later, Turing suggested that, if human beings think by using the external information available to them in order to reason, why couldn’t machines do the same thing? 

At the time of Turing’s writing, computers weren’t only incredibly expensive, but also not technically advanced enough to store and then replicate commands. They could simply do as they were told. However, in the decades since Turing’s founding work, computers and artificial intelligence have advanced enormously, and are relied upon by many of us in our day to day lives.

Other pioneering areas of work for Turing include the early development of the cryptography we now use for data protection and public security, and the theoretical application of mathematics to understanding biological patterns in nature. Scientists eventually proved Turing’s theory decades after his initial conceptualisation.

Tragically, Turing’s life was cut short at age 41, following his arrest for the crime of homosexuality in 1952. He was ordered by British courts to take chemically castrating drugs, leading to his suicide in 1954. Turing was eventually pardoned by the British government in 2013. 

LGBT+ scientists and innovators are still shaping the world we live in today; and whilst we have made significant steps towards equality, globally we still have some way to go. It is vital that we cultivate environments that amplify the achievements of all our colleagues. As Turing himself wrote: 

“The isolated man does not develop any intellectual power. It is necessary for him to be immersed in an environment of other[s]… The search for new techniques must be regarded as carried out by the human community as a whole, rather than by individuals.”

 

Holly Battrick, Renewals Administrator 

Related News

US Inventor Declarations and Assignments
news

US Inventor Declarations and Assignments

After a patent application has been filed, the inventor may be required to sign and submit various forms.  What happens if this is several years into the patent process, and the inventor can no longer be reached to sign these forms?  And what can you do now to prevent any complications from arising?

UKIPO ending temporary fee changes on 31 March 2021
news

UKIPO ending temporary fee changes on 31 March 2021

The UK Intellectual Property Office (UK IPO) temporarily reduced or removed certain official fees associated with patents, trade marks and registered designs because of the disruption caused by the Coronavirus pandemic. However, the temporary fee changes are set to end on 31 March 2021.

Insurance for IP Litigation Costs
news

Insurance for IP Litigation Costs

If you own any intellectual property (IP) rights, are you concerned about your exposure to litigation, and how you will finance any legal action?  One way to address this concern is by means of an insurance policy.

Does owning IP rights improve economic performance?
news

Does owning IP rights improve economic performance?

A recent study performed by the European Patent Office (EPO) and the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) has shown that companies which own at least one patent, trade mark or registered design generate on average 20% higher revenues per employee and pay their staff on average 19% higher wages compared to companies that do not own any of these intellectual property (IP) rights.

Let it go!
news

Let it go!

Keeping an IP budget afloat despite sunk costs.

The cost of securing IP can be heavily front loaded. Examples of such costs include patent drafting, pre-filing searches, filing fees, etc. These costs become “sunk” costs in that they cannot be recovered. Because IP protection can be a relatively long process, at any time during the process there are likely to be significant “prospective” costs: future costs that may be wholly or partially avoided depending on actions taken.

Turkish Declarations of Use
news

Turkish Declarations of Use

Have you recently validated your European patent in Turkey?  Did you know that in addition to paying annual renewal fees, Turkish law also requires you to submit a public declaration stating whether you have actively worked your invention in Turkey?

Managing your business-critical IP during the COVID-19 crisis
news

Managing your business-critical IP during the COVID-19 crisis

UK businesses are fighting for survival during the continuing COVID-19 outbreak and trying to trade under difficult conditions, the likes of which haven’t been seen in the living memory of most business people. If you’re afraid that your business is going to the wall, it probably isn’t the top of your mind to pay for a patent application for your new technology or a registration of the trade mark for your brand new clothing range, right?  Where is the money coming from to invest in such luxuries as IP, we hear you say, when staff are being furloughed and orders have been postponed?

Videoconferencing: the future of oral proceedings at the EPO?
news

Videoconferencing: the future of oral proceedings at the EPO?

The European Patent Office has announced that videoconferencing will become the norm for oral proceedings before examination and opposition divisions until at least 15 September 2021. But is this a taste of what the future holds for oral proceedings at the EPO?

aipex logo aipex logo aipex logo