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

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?

EPO-CNIPA pilot for International Search
news

EPO-CNIPA pilot for International Search

On 12 November 2019, the EPO and CNIPA agreed to enhance their bilateral co-operation to give patent applicants filing an international patent application in English at the CNIPA, the choice to opt for the EPO as their ISA. A two year pilot programme launched on 1 December 2020, offers applicants filing international applications with the CNIPA or the International Bureau (IB) of the World Intellectual Property Office (WIPO) the opportunity to select the EPO as their ISA and as their International Preliminary Examining Authority (IPEA), rather than CNIPA.

Changes to trade mark and patent law in Gibraltar
news

Changes to trade mark and patent law in Gibraltar

In October 2020, the UK Government declared that the territorial effect of five important IP treaties would be extended to cover Gibraltar from 1 January 2021.  These treaties are the Paris Convention, the Patent Cooperation Treaty, the Madrid Protocol (on International trade marks), the Nice Agreement (on trade mark classification), and the Berne Convention (on copyright). Following on from this, a bill was passed in on 11 December 2020, making some amendments to trade mark and patent law in Gibraltar.

Much Ado About Nothing
news

Much Ado About Nothing

For a long time, a source of tension among UK trade mark and design attorneys was the fact that the UK was one of the few EU member states to abide by a decision to allow attorneys from any European Economic Area country to represent clients in proceedings before any national office of an EU member state.  With this in mind, one of the ironies of Brexit is that, from 1st January 2021, UK trade mark and design attorneys will (in general – please see below for a super-important exception!) lose the right to represent clients before the EU IPO

Messi scores in injury time…..
news

Messi scores in injury time…..

After nine-years (even Sir Alex Ferguson would have struggled to justify that), six time Ballon d’Or winner, Lionel Messi, has won a legal battle to register his name as a trade mark.

The impact of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning on the Patent Profession
news

The impact of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning on the Patent Profession

Matthew Veale discusses the impact of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning on the patent profession.

UK IPO announces temporary fee changes
news

UK IPO announces temporary fee changes

The UKIPO has temporarily reduced or removed certain fees associated with patents, trade marks and registered designs until 31 March 2021.

aipex logo aipex logo aipex logo