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The Essential Turing [Paperback]

B. Jack. Copeland
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

18 Nov 2004
Alan Turing, pioneer of computing and WWII codebreaker, is one of the most important and influential thinkers of the twentieth century. In this volume for the first time his key writings are made available to a broad, non-specialist readership. They make fascinating reading both in their own right and for their historic significance: contemporary computational theory, cognitive science, artificial intelligence, and artificial life all spring from this ground-breaking work, which is also rich in philosophical and logical insight. An introduction by leading Turing expert Jack Copeland provides the background and guides the reader through the selection.

About Alan Turing

Alan Turing FRS OBE, (1912-1954) studied mathematics at King's College, Cambridge. He was elected a Fellow of King's in March 1935, at the age of only 22. In the same year he invented the abstract computing machines - now known simply as Turing machines - on which all subsequent stored-program digital computers are modelled.
During 1936-1938 Turing continued his studies, now at Princeton University. He completed a PhD in mathematical logic, analysing the notion of 'intuition' in mathematics and introducing the idea of oracular computation, now fundamental in mathematical recursion theory. An 'oracle' is an abstract device able to solve mathematical problems too difficult for the universal Turing machine.
In the summer of 1938 Turing returned to his Fellowship at King's. When WWII started in 1939 he joined the wartime headquarters of the Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS) at Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire. Building on earlier work by Polish cryptanalysts, Turing contributed crucially to the design of electro-mechanical machines ('bombes') used to decipher Enigma, the code by means of which the German armed forces sought to protect their radio communications. Turing's work on the version of Enigma used by the German navy was vital to the battle for supremacy in the North Atlantic. He also contributed to the attack on the cyphers known as 'Fish'. Based on binary teleprinter code, Fish was used during the latter part of the war in preference to morse-based Enigma for the encryption of high-level signals, for example messages from Hitler and other members of the German High Command. It is estimated that the work of GC&CS shortened the war in Europe by at least two years. Turing received the Order of the British Empire for the part he played.
In 1945, the war over, Turing was recruited to the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) in London, his brief to design and develop an electronic computer - a concrete form of the universal Turing machine. Turing's report setting out his design for the Automatic Computing Engine (ACE) was the first relatively complete specification of an electronic stored-program general-purpose digital computer. Delays beyond Turing's control resulted in NPL's losing the race to build the world's first working electronic stored-program digital computer - an honour that went to the Royal Society Computing Machine Laboratory at Manchester University, in June 1948. Discouraged by the delays at NPL, Turing took up the Deputy Directorship of the Royal Society Computing Machine Laboratory in that year.
Turing was a founding father of modern cognitive science and a leading early exponent of the hypothesis that the human brain is in large part a digital computing machine, theorising that the cortex at birth is an 'unorganised machine' which through 'training' becomes organised 'into a universal machine or something like it'. He also pioneered Artificial Intelligence.
Turing spent the rest of his short career at Manchester University, being appointed to a specially created Readership in the Theory of Computing in May 1953. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of London in March 1951 (a high honour).

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Product details

  • Paperback: 620 pages
  • Publisher: Clarendon Press (18 Nov 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0198250800
  • ISBN-13: 978-0198250807
  • Product Dimensions: 23.3 x 16.1 x 3.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 349,635 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

The editor not only presents the Turing seminal papers and ingenious contributions to fields he was far ahead his time, he also gives easy access for non-specialists by his comprehensive introductions and comments. (Volker Peckhaus, Zentralblatt MATH 1076)

About the Author

B. J. Copeland is Reader in Philosophy at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Most Accessible Introduction to Turing 21 Aug 2005
Format:Paperback
This is a terrific book. Turing is one of the most important figures of our time. Copeland's lucid and helpful introductions to Turing's key works make fascinating reading. (The hundreds of footnotes are testimony to the depth of scholarship that underlies Copeland's smooth prose.) Copeland makes Turing, and so the origins of the digital age, accessible to all.
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3 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Most Accessible Introduction to Turing 21 Aug 2005
Format:Paperback
This is a terrific book. Turing is one of the most important figures of our time. Copeland's lucid and helpful introductions to Turing's key works make fascinating reading. (The hundreds of footnotes are testimony to the depth of scholarship that underlies Copeland's smooth prose.) Copeland makes Turing, and so the origins of the digital age, accessible to all.
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Was this review helpful to you?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.8 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a long overdue book 12 Sep 2005
By W Boudville - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
A long overdue book. Copeland collects together Turing's greatest papers. As in where Turing tackled the fundamentals of what is now called a Turing machine - ie. a universal computer. Plus other papers where Turing ruminated on artificial intelligence, and founded that field. Plus coming up with the Turing Test for AI.

Turing's papers are interleaved with chapters by Copeland that give extra context to the times in which Turing lived. Notably on Turing's crucial contribution to the Enigma project at Bletchley Park during World War 2. It is no exaggeration to say that his insight into decoding the German encryptions saved the lives of thousands of Allied soldiers.

Valuable also is a reprinting of Turing's "Treatise on the Enigma", which was only declassified in 1996. Though by then, its essence had been known for decades. Finally, the book lets you read Turing's words on Enigma.
15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A valuable addition in paraphrasing Turing 22 Mar 2005
By Adnan Masood - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Copeland's "Essential Turing" reviews Turning's major writings and is a valuable source of knowledge for computer scientists and avid CS/Mathematics readers alike. Turing was a brilliant British mathematician, logician, and cryptographer and is widely considered to be the father of computer science. This book doesn't portray him merely as a code breaker but also provides commentary on his brilliant foundation work as on Artificial intelligence. Discussion on the ultimate Turing test (proposal for a test of a machine's capability to perform human-like conversation) and Entscheidungs Problem is worth reading.

I shelve this book next to Knuth's "The Art of Computer Programming" which may state what it's worth.
29 of 43 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A collection of Turing's papers 1 Mar 2005
By Tom Howard - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Copeland's book is basically a collection of some of Turing's original papers, completed with a short introduction for each part of the book. I was disappointed by this book as (1) one can easily find copies of Turing's work on the web, (2) there is very little additional value in Copeland's comments, and (3) the papers are not reproduced in their original typeset and layout. Elsevier's "Collected Works of A. M. Turing" (4 volumes) does a much better job and offers Turing's complete work.
5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent edition, long overdue 25 Oct 2005
By Dr. A. Eden - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Enjoy this profound book by the father of the Digital Age. The Essential Turing is an excellent edition and long overdue. Turing's essential works are finally available in a single volume. Turing is one of the most important thinkers of the 20th century--he was rated up there with Einstein in Time magazine's 'The Century's Greatest Minds'. Copeland's lucid commentaries on Turing's work are fascinating and helpful. OUP is to be congratulated on putting Turing into the hands of the popular science book-buyer at long last.
4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Most Accessible Introduction to Turing 21 Aug 2005
By J. C. Arkell - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is a terrific book. Turing is one of the most important figures of our time. Copeland's lucid and helpful introductions to Turing's key works make fascinating reading. (The hundreds of footnotes are testimony to the depth of scholarship that underlies Copeland's smooth prose.) Copeland makes Turing, and so the origins of the digital age, accessible to all.
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