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Alan Turing: The Enigma Kindle Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 307 customer reviews

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Length: 777 pages Word Wise: Enabled

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Review

"One of the finest scientific biographies I’ve ever read: authoritative, superbly researched, deeply sympathetic and beautifully told" (Sylvia Nasar, author of A Beautiful Mind)

"Andrew Hodges' book is of exemplary scholarship and sympathy. Intimate, perceptive and insightful, it’s also the most readable biography I’ve picked up in some time" (Time Out)

"A first-rate presentation of the life of a first-rate scientific mind" (New York Times Book Review)

"One of the finest scientific biographies ever written" (New Yorker)

"A first-rate presentation of the life of a first-rate scientific mind…it is hard to imagine a more thoughtful and warm biography than this one" (Douglas Hofstadter New York Times Book Review)

Book Description

The full story behind the persecuted genius of wartime codebreaking and the computer revolution - now an Oscar-winning film starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 8237 KB
  • Print Length: 777 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Digital; Film Tie-In edition (30 Nov. 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B009H4ZB3G
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars 307 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #26,300 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This is an immense book; a staggeringly thorough biography; the author appears to have left no stone unturned in his search for the real man behind the 'enigma'. Alan Turing emerges as a man who was ahead of his time in his ideas of machine intelligence and his understanding of his own sexuality; but one who was paradoxically also 'born too late', for the breadth of his interests might have sat better in the Victorian era than within the twentieth century cult of the expert.

It is definitely worth reading if you can commit the necessary time and attention to it (I read it while recovering from surgery). Not only is it a thick volume with very small print, but it abounds with highly technical descriptions of Turing's work. Otherwise, wait a couple of years from the time of this review and there will no doubt be a profusion of potted biographies to celebrate Turing's centenary year in 2012.
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Format: Paperback
This is a lengthy book and, unfortunately, not the easiest on the reader. It is a story of brilliance intermixed with moments of tragedy and success, all of which contributed towards Turing's personality.

Essentially, Turing was a mathematician who was found to have a talent for solving complex mathematical problems, a talent much needed at the critical point just before WWII and during it. For the reader it is not necessary to understand the mathematics in order to help understand the man. Unfortunately the writer appears also to be a mathematician who deems it necessary to delve into the principles of the complex equations needed to solve the Enigma problem. These complicate the book and the story within.

I had tried to read this book on more than a single instance and each time I get a little further but the central portion is the most complex and seems insurmountable, thanks to the maths. I had previously read other authors' attempts at Turing's story, some possibly pre-dating the 1970's release of the Enigma secret and without the mathematic content, which made them easier to understand Turing's life and lifestyle choices.

This is probably the most complete telling of Turing's life, but certainly not the easiest for many potential readers. It may incidentally interest those studying mathematics at degree or higher levels.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
There's a lot to be said for 'The Imitation Game', the film starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing. It is well-acted, and the story is gripping, focusing as it does on two aspects of Turing's life which lend themselves particularly to dramatic presentation: his wartime work breaking the German Enigma naval code, and his homosexuality.

That he was homosexual is key to understanding him. This wasn't in any sense a preference of his, it wasn't a casual toying with an alternative sexuality in a bisexual man. Turing was fundamentally and assertively gay, and that was an essential part of his makeup. The film's treatment of his relationship with Joan Clarke, and their attempt at an engagement that was doomed from the outset, is well handled (not least because Clarke's role is played by Keira Knightley, a far better actor than many give her credit for), and certainly makes not the slightest concession to the long-outdated notion that the right woman can somehow "cure" a man's homosexuality.

Equally, Turing's shameful treatment by the authorities, at a time when homosexuality was still illegal in Britain, is effectively portrayed by the film. We see the net closing on him, from the moment when he unfortunately informed the police of an attempted burglary at his home, to their growing suspicions of him as he becomes evasive about the people he knows were involved, to the moment when the tables turn and, instead of being able to count on the police to act for him over the break-in, he finds himself their victim for the much more serious offence of "gross indecency" with the man behind the burglary, in fact his lover.
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Format: Paperback
I cannot recall my first meeting with Alan Turing (in books) but I have been fascinated since, on two levels; firstly, Bletchley Park was so shrouded in secrecy (still seems to be to some extent) that many people do not fully appreciate the role its people played in bringing the war to an early end, with fewer lives lost. Secondly, Alan Turing's genius is still not understood by many of us who benefit from it in many ways, e.g. he pioneered computing and helped to ensure our lives are lived in our current freedom.

Excessive praise? I think not.

Having worked with gifted people at one time, I came to understand many of their differences and the difficulty some people had with them and their strange expectations of their normality while being gifted. Alan Turing suffered in similar ways. There is a clear logic in cycling with a gas mask on while suffering from and trying to prevent hay fever - after all, he was trying to crack a complex code. In a large organisation, I should imagine tea mugs annoyingly went missing all the time, especially when time wasted looking for one was lives lost. Solution? Simple - chain it to the radiator.

This is an excellent biography which sheds a great deal of light on Turing's unusual character and some of the technical issues involved in code-breaking and early computer building, both of which the author explains well.

The post-war social complexities are dealt with too, making this a fascinating book. In some ways, it helps to explain Gordon Brown's partial apology many years later; when one considers the services for which knighthoods are awarded now, it leaves one seriously wondering about some post-war decisions.
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