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Turing: Pioneer of the Information Age [Hardcover]

B. Jack Copeland
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

29 Nov 2012
Alan Turing can be regarded as one of the greatest scientists of the 20th century. But who was Turing, and what did he achieve during his tragically short life of 41 years? Best known as the genius who broke Germany's most secret codes during the war of 1939-45, Turing was also the father of the modern computer. Today, all who 'click-to-open' are familiar with the impact of Turing's ideas.

Here, B. Jack Copeland provides an account of Turing's life and work, exploring the key elements of his life-story in tandem with his leading ideas and contributions. The book highlights Turing's contributions to computing and to computer science, including Artificial Intelligence and Artificial Life, and the emphasis throughout is on the relevance of his work to modern developments. The story of his contributions to codebreaking during the Second World War is set in the context of his thinking about machines, as is the account of his work in the foundations of mathematics.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (29 Nov 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199639795
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199639793
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 14 x 3.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 285,163 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


This book is a worthy tribute to [Turing's] genius (Irish Examiner)

About the Author

Jack Copeland is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand, and Director of the Turing Archive for the History of Computing.

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

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4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Alan Turning may not have been that fortunate in life, but he has been outstandingly lucky in his biographers. Something like 20 years ago I read Andrew Hodges' work, and thought is a near-perfect example of the genre. It covered the astonishingly original work in maths, philosophy and even gadget invention side of Turing and also gave what I considered a well-balanced interpretation of him being a gay man in a general society where this was illegal and disliked, but also in a smaller, academic world where it was of no more particular note that the fact that he was clumsy.

Copeland has somehow managed to craft yet another biography which goes through material which didn't appear in detail in Hodges' book (almost certainly for security reasons - the story of the Tunny machines is both hilarious - were the Russians really that stupid, we know Amin was - and fascinating) and which gives yet another angle on this odd, clearly difficult man. Turning's astonishing inventiveness and ability to find radically new ways of looking at questions was stifled by the bureaucracy and stupidity of the post-War government - the ones who gave away jet technology to the Russians and, it seems, managed to destroy the British leads in virtually every technology that was going to matter in the next 50 years.

Copeland also reinterprets Turing's treatment as a criminal and manages - I hope accurately - to give the impression that Turing bore his disgraceful treatment with equanimity and that it left no serious scars (or indeed dimuinution of his finding men attractive).

He also leaves open the cause of Turing's death. Personally, I hope it was simply that it was simply another manifestation of his clumsiness.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Interesting book. 11 April 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I am very interested in code breaking during the war years 1939-45.
This book covers Turing's part in this most valueable war effort.
A great read if you like code breaking.
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2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Saint Alan of Turing 29 May 2013
By opus
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I would very much have liked for OUP to produce a vsi on Turing (to join those I have on Newton, Faraday and Darwin) but they have published the above, which I purchased as an alternative.

I am only a few pages in to it, but it is written in Hagiographic style, and reads like fiction and seems to be full of errors. By way of example: Turing is said to have attended a Prep School in Kent at(?) Hazelhurst, but I defy anyone to find a place of that name in Kent on any map. There is certainly no school of that name in the county presently - that I can trace. We are told he spent six years there, but if he started Prep School as we are informed at nine years of age then he went to Public School aged fifteen (most unlikely). Wiki however tells us that he went to board at Sherborne Abbey - having come straight from holidays!! on the first day of the General Strike (4th May) in 1926, arriving on the 5th (the first day of term) but that was before Turing's fourteenth birthday and so being thirteen he can only have been at Prep School (if that is true) for four years - not six - and who starts school mid-summer term on 5th May? None of this makes any sense, but if true, needs explanation. As for the bicycle ride on that day, we really need to be told a bit more about it, as the idea that any parent or guardian would allow someone only thirteen out alone for two days unaccompanied needs explanation - and (and given his family's comparative wealth, finances cannot be the cause). Anyway a sixty mile journey by Bike should easily be accomplishable in one day (say six hours at ten miles an hour). Sorry, but the whole story is not believable, as it stands.

I may persist further but this is rather disappointing so far. Perhaps it is unfair to criticise a book for being what it is than for what I wish it had been.
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Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Story of Turing's contribution to the development of computer emgineering 13 Feb 2013
By J. Rodriguez - Published on Amazon.com
This is not a comprehensive intellectual biography of Alan Turing. Its focus narrower - it looks at the intersection of Turing's ideas about computing and his code-breaking work in WWII. It very nicely provides photographic documentation of hardware development and is well written in a way that is accessible to the non-expert. Thumbs up!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars No computer expertise required; this is for everyone 17 Jan 2013
By Steve G - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
This is not a detailed biography of Alan Turing; it more the intersection between the lives of Turing and computers. I am sure that there was a lot more to Turing's private life than was revealed in Jack Copeland's book, however this didn't lessen my enjoyment of the book. The time flew by as I read. The pace was crisp and Copeland did a great job of explaining the birth of computing and why Turing was indeed "Pioneer of the Information Age" as the book's subtitle reads. Some of the information was a little technical but the technical details aren't the point of the story, it is how many people, led by Turing, developed the computer. No prior detailed knowledge about computers is required; Copeland did a very good job of explaining everything along the way. I strongly recommend this book for anyone interested in computers or the history of science.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Useful porptrayal of a misunderstood genius 19 April 2013
By John Birkbeck - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I thought this was a useful portrayal of someone who was undoubtedly a genius but wasn't allowed to have a private life, especially as a gay man in those days. even when convicted for what was then an offence, there punishment should have been vastly more lenient as nobody was suffering as a consequence.
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