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Alan Turing: The Enigma [Paperback]

Andrew Hodges
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
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Book Description

5 Mar 1992

A new edition to celebrate Alan Turing's centenary, includes a new foreword by the author and a preface by Douglas Hofstadter.

Alan Turing was the extraordinary Cambridge mathematician who masterminded the cracking of the German Enigma ciphers and transformed the Second World War. But his vision went far beyond this crucial achievement. Before the war he had formulated the concept of the universal machine, and in 1945 he turned this into the first design for a digital computer.

Turing's far-sighted plans for the digital era forged ahead into a vision for Artificial Intelligence. However, in 1952 his homosexuality rendered him a criminal and he was subjected to humiliating treatment. In 1954, aged 41, Alan Turing committed suicide and one of Britain's greatest scientific minds was lost.

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Alan Turing: The Enigma + The Secret Life of Bletchley Park: The History of the Wartime Codebreaking Centre by the Men and Women Who Were There
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Product details

  • Paperback: 624 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New Ed edition (5 Mar 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099116413
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099116417
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 19 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 13,356 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


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

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

"Save your money for the forthcoming new edition of Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges, regarded by many as one of the greatest biographies of anyone, let along Turing" (Robert Matthews BBC Focus Magazine)

Book Description

The full story behind the persecuted genius of wartime codebreaking and the computer revolution.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deciphering Alan Turing 12 May 2010
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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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Alan Turing - a great biography 10 Dec 2011
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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43 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent biography. 1 Mar 2003
Hodges' biography manages to paint not only the story of Turing the scientist and his contribution to computing and cryptography, but also Turing the man - shy, witty, persecuted for his homosexuality. The scenes - Cambridge, Bletchley Park, Manchester - are all painted in detail, with the part Turing played in the development of mathematics, cryptography and computing clearly explored against personal and historical contexts.
A degree of mathematical literacy helps one to obtain more from this superb biography, but it should all be accessible to the non-specialist. Hodges tells a compelling story in a readable style.
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41 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Book about Turing NOT Poles 17 Mar 2007
With respect to the previous reviewer this book is about Alan Turing. It is not called "How the Poles broke Enigma". Don't criticise a book for not doing something it never set out to do in the first place. Turing's genius stretched way beyond "merely" breaking codes.
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42 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Be Prepared to be Enthralled 13 April 2008
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This was a thoroughly enjoyable read that shed enormous light on a figure I knew about only dimly before, having studied Turing Machines as part of my degree. This is a good book on many levels, provoking thought about the history of computing as well as that of Britain 1939-1954. Above all it is a book about a complex individual who did not fit easily into society for a number of reasons. In this sense the book has something to say to us all.
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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very detailed and enjoyable read ... 23 Mar 2003
By Jurgen Van Gael VINE VOICE
This book on Alan Turing is a very detailed biography. I especially liked the fact that the author seems to understand how to explain some technical stuff in a very easy to understand way. It is by no means an introduction to the theory which Turing invented but still gives the reader a good idea on why and how he did it. The work of Mr. Turing on cryptography and the cryptanalysis of the enigma code after his university years are an exciting read on the second world war which not many of us have heard about yet!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Alan Turing - The Enigma 15 Oct 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A superb book. Good mixture of some of the maths he used in problem-solving, with personal details of the Great Man's life. One can skip the maths and 'take it as read' without detracting from the 'plot'. It shows A Turing's eccentricity well as well as his complex inner 'demons' in coping with his homosexuality. I am only half-way through as I write this, so the 'plot' has not fully worked out to its tragic end, but I am confident that the rest of the book won't disappoint!
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing illustration of the mind of a GENIUS. 28 Aug 2000
By A Customer
After watching a documentary on the breaking of the Enigma Code, I found myself needing more information about the genius that was Alan Turing, and this book certainly provided it. All credit goes to Hodges for such a comprehensive work, which allows the reader to almost "enter the mind" of a man who was undoubtably one of the foremost genius' and mathematicians the world has seen. The only thing missing is some examples of Turing's academic papers in the appendices.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars The story of the man who could have created Britain's computer...
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... Read more
Published 3 days ago by Andy_atGC
1.0 out of 5 stars Can't the publisher of a book even get its title right?
Nothing to add from me on scope, content or style. It's a hugely sympathetic account of a tragic figure. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Stephen Allenson
5.0 out of 5 stars Riviting,
Best book for a while, would be a bit heavy if you dont understand Math, Physics, Psycology and Chemisry. worth a read
Published 2 months ago by KEITH GOOCH
5.0 out of 5 stars fab
bought to help me do my final year project. has been a good read and will be reading again in the future!
Published 2 months ago by me
4.0 out of 5 stars A very thorough and informative account.
Maybe this goes into more detail than you'd want. But it's easy to skip the mathematics and it does give a convincing portrait of an outstanding and unusual individual. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Brian F. Farrington
2.0 out of 5 stars Dull and boring, packed with irrelevant detail
Having studied a little of Turing's mathematics at university (my PhD thesis was based on Turing machines), I was interested to read more about the man and his scientific work. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Yossu
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Present!
My grandmas was very happy with this present. She went on to read more about Turing. She even lent the book back to me to read and I found it very interesting and educational. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Nathan Meade
5.0 out of 5 stars A story that had to be told to give overdue credit to talented man who...
The writer describes the life and achievements of one of those rare individuals who was always going to be unique in some way. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Trish. NIBLOCK
5.0 out of 5 stars Alan Turing: The Enigma (of intelligence)
A welcome, humane and sympathetic book written by someone who understands the mathematics. If the maths becomes too deep, you can always skip lightly over it (as I had to). Read more
Published 6 months ago by Mr. M. Bryant
3.0 out of 5 stars The Alan Turing Enigma
A bit long and drawn out it could have been a bit less going forward and back in time and more to the facts.
Published 8 months ago by Colin Avery
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