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Alan Turing: Unlocking the Enigma (Kindle Single) [Kindle Edition]

David Boyle
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (324 customer reviews)

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  • Length: 112 pages
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Book Description

Alan Mathison Turing.

Mathematician, philosopher, codebreaker, a founder of computer science, and the father of Artificial Intelligence, Turing was one of the most original thinkers of the last century - and the man whose work helped create the computer-driven world we now inhabit.

But he was also an enigmatic figure, deeply reticent yet also strikingly naïve. Turing’s openness about his homosexuality at a time when it was an imprisonable offense ultimately led to his untimely death at the age of only forty-one.

In 'Alan Turing: Unlocking the Enigma', David Boyle reveals the mysteries behind the man and his remarkable career. Aged just 22, Turing was elected a fellow at King's College, Cambridge on the strength of a dissertation in which he proved the central limit theorem. By the age of 33, he had been awarded the OBE by King George VI for his wartime services: Turing was instrumental in cracking the Nazi Enigma machines at the top secret code breaking establishment at Bletchley Park during the Second World War.

But his achievements were to be tragically overshadowed by the paranoia of the post-War years. Hounded for his supposedly subversive views and for his sexuality, Turing was prosecuted in 1952, and forced to accept the humiliation of hormone treatment to avoid a prison sentence. Just two years later, at the age of 41 he was dead. The verdict: cyanide poisoning.

Was Turing’s death accidental as his mother always claimed? Or did persistent persecution drive him to take him own life?

‘Alan Turing: Unlocking the Enigma’ seeks to find the man behind the science, illuminating the life of a person who is still a shadowy presence behind his brilliant achievements.

David Boyle's work has been widely praised.

‘The tone of the book may be gloomy but there is plenty of entertainment value …’ Anne Ashworth, The Times

‘Exhilarating’ Daily Mail

‘He tells these stories, on the whole persuasively and with some startling asides.’ New Statesman

‘A book that is engagingly sensitive to the sentiments of what is sometimes called “middle England”’ Dominic Lawson, Sunday Times

David Boyle is a British author and journalist who writes mainly about history and new ideas in economics, money, business and culture. He lives in Crystal Palace, London. His books include ‘Unheard Unseen: Warfare in the Dardanelles’, ‘Towards the Setting Sun: The Race for America’ and ‘The Age to Come’.

Endeavour Press is the UK's leading independent publisher of digital books.

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Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 2291 KB
  • Print Length: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Endeavour Press (10 Feb. 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (324 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #7,832 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

David Courtney Boyle, 1958-, is a British author and journalist who writes mainly about history and new ideas in economics, money, business and culture. He lives in the South Downs. His most recent public role was conducting an independent review for the Treasury and the Cabinet Office on Barriers to Public Service Choice, which reported early in 2013.

His book Authenticity put the phenomenon on the business and political agenda. His previous books The Tyranny of Numbers and The Sum of Our Discontent predicted and fermented the backlash against target culture. Funny Money helped launched the time banks movement in the UK.

More recently, he has been writing about why organisations and public services are so ineffective, working with the New Economics Foundation and NESTA on a series of publications about coproduction, and publishing his own solutions as The Human Element. This argues that organisations have abandoned human skills in favour of numerical targets or IT systems, which frustrate the business of building relationships and making things happen.

His history books usually have a business or economic dimension, including Blondel's Song (UK) and The Troubadour's Song (USA) about the imprisonment and ransom of Richard the Lionheart. His 2008 book Toward the Setting Sun tells the intertwined story of Christopher Columbus, John Cabot and Amerigo Vespucci and their race for America in the 1490s. His 2010 book, Eminent Corporations with (Andrew Simms) has introduced a new genre, the mini-corporate biography, launching the idea of corporate history as tragedy. His recent book Broke has launched a public debate about the plight of the middle classes.

He has been the editor of several journals including New Economics and Town & Country Planning. He is a fellow of the New Economics Foundation and has been at the heart of the effort to develop co-production and introduce time banks to Britain as a critical element of public service reform. He has been closely involved in their Clone Town Britain campaign and writes about the future of volunteering, cities and business. He edited the Foundation's publications New Economics, News from the New Economy, and then Radical Economics from 1987-2010.

David helped found the London Time Bank, and was co-founder of Time Banking UK. He has been a candidate for Parliament of the United Kingdom. He was editor of the weekly Liberal Democrat News from 1992-1998.

His bestselling books for Kindle have mainly been about history, including Alan Turing: Unlocking the Enigma, Peace on Earth and Unheard, Unseen.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
88 of 92 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Alan Turing's work and life explained 12 April 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
When I downloaded this book I feared it might be concerned with Turing's personal life at the expense of his mathematics, or vice versa. I was wrong: David Boyle gives an excellent balance.

Turing was an eccentric: at Bletchley Park he chained his mug to a radiator, held his trousers up with string and could be found knitting in a corner. He found social small-talk difficult. But his mathematical thinking was profound. His special interest was the creation of an intelligent machine.

He devised the tough Turing test for artificial intelligence: there would be a man, a woman, and an interrogator in a separate room trying to work out which was the woman - who would be trying to hinder the process. Now, said Turing, imagine the man was replaced with a machine. Could the interrogator tell whether they were talking to a machine or not after 5 minutes of questioning? Turing would have been satisfied if you couldn't tell which was the machine - his test was not concerned with whether the computer was actually 'thinking'.

As a mathematician Turing combined logic with intuition, and he believed that computers could also (eventually) be intuitive. Remember, this was before the digital age. When the opportunity arrived at Bletchley to create machines to assist in wartime code-breaking they were huge; and even the very latest version, the Colossus, had only 1500 valves.

Turing was particularly interested in 'the liars paradox': at its simplest you can express it just by saying 'I am lying'. The statement 'I am lying' must itself be a lie - unless I was actually telling the truth, in which case I would have been telling a lie.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Unlocking the Enigma 28 May 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This kindle single gives an interesting short biography of Alan Turing, the brilliant scientist best known for wartime code breaking at Bletchley Park and his pioneering contribution to the very beginning of information technology. This tells the story of his life from a bookish and withdrawn boy, independent and obsessed with mathematics, to an academic career which led to his important wartime work and a post-war period at King’s College where he faced difficulties in both the scientific world and his emotional life.

Alan Turing was both respected by colleagues and also infuriated many he knew. Like many great intellectuals, he cared little about external things – tying his trousers with string and staying in cheap hotels, even when he could afford better. He was also homosexual in a time when it was illegal and his sexuality was the reason for most of his troubles in later life. This book hinges on the 2013 request in the House of Lords for Turin to receive a statutory pardon for crimes relating to his homosexuality and there is also a fascinating possible link to Guy Burgess which I would like to read more about. Although this is a short book, it is a good introduction to a truly fascinating and ground breaking man.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating account of Turing's achievements 20 Feb. 2014
By Hog
Format:Kindle Edition
When Alan Turing received a royal pardon at the close of last year, I quickly realised how little I knew of the man. The book covers more than just his most famous ideas/work as a codebreaker. It goes far back into his past to try and explain how and why he ended up the way he did. It makes for quite sad reading knowing the tragedy of his death in the end, but it proved to be a fascinating account of Turing's many achievements.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a very reasonably priced, albeit short, book on the life of a man we all owe a great deal. If it encourages people to find out more about this complex genius then it will have served its purpose exceedingly well. Alan Turing is a true hero whose treatment after the war he contributed so much towards winning, beggars belief. Read this book and find out a little bit more about the man whose test to establish computer 'consciousness' is still the yardstick we judge them by.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unlocking his genius... 13 Feb. 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Excellent all round biography of Turing which gets to grips with his achievements (which were many) and also his complicated personality. Boyle treats the reader with intelligence and he succeeds in making some of Turing's more complex ideas accessible. Time will have to tell how prophetic some of Turing's ideas will be in reference to AI, but what this book rightly testifies to is his contribution to mathematics, early computing and also the war effort. The book addresses Turing's death well too. The comments from Turing's mother that the author recalls are even quite touching, as well as insightful. It is perhaps beyond the power of any author to totally unlock the enigma of Alan Turing, but this biography is as good a starting place as any.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
By Katy
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This short but comprehensive study of Alan Turing acts as a great primer for the forthcoming Benedict Cumberbatch film about the great man. In some ways Turing was as eccentric and brilliant as Sherlock Holmes and it'll be interesting to see how the actor plays him. Turing also wanted to live life on his own terms, though in the end it seems that he couldn't and his way out was suicide. I'm no expert on Turing but it seems that Boyle hasn't missed anything major out. Unlocking the Enigma is more than just a conventional biography though and the author grapples with Turing's life as well as his theories and accomplishments. I would have liked a bit more material on Turing's time at Bletchley Park, but this is a small criticism of an otherwise engaging book.
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