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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deciphering Alan Turing
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...
Published on 12 May 2010 by Ariadne Tampion

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
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. This book was advertised with such comments as "One of the finest scientific biographies ever written" and "...it is hard to imagine a more thoughtful and warm biography than this one" which led me...
Published 7 months ago by Yossu


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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deciphering Alan Turing, 12 May 2010
By 
Ariadne Tampion (Leicestershire, UK) - See all my reviews
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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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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Alan Turing - a great biography, 10 Dec 2011
By 
RR Waller "ISeneca" (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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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
By 
Peter Fenelon - See all my reviews
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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
By 
A. Morrison - See all my reviews
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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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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 (Cambridge, UK) - See all my reviews
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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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42 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Be Prepared to be Enthralled, 13 April 2008
By 
Roger Claxton "cloud cuckoo" (Dartmoor UK) - See all my reviews
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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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Alan Turing - The Enigma, 15 Oct 2011
By 
M. D. Leith - See all my reviews
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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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Dull and boring, packed with irrelevant detail, 31 Dec 2013
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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. This book was advertised with such comments as "One of the finest scientific biographies ever written" and "...it is hard to imagine a more thoughtful and warm biography than this one" which led me to believe that this would be an absorbing and informative read.

I was wrong on both counts. This book was undoubtedly the most boring and dull scientific biography - no, change that - biography of ANY kind that I have ever read (and yes, I've read quite a lot).

My main objection to the book was that the author did not seem to understand the difference between interesting and relevant material, and totally dull and pointless material. The book includes pretty much every detail that the author could find out about Turing, to a level of detail that could only interest someone with an manic obsession. I am convinced that if he could have found evidence of what Turing ate for breakfast, he would have included a day-by-day account of this as well.

Whilst that was annoying, at least it was connected to Turing. What was far worse was the rambling off into tenuously-connected subjects that weren't even particularly interesting, never mind relevant. We were treated to a diverse discourse on politics, human development and any other subject that the author could find to pad out the book. Had he kept to the point, and only included subjects where there was something relevant to Turing and his life, the book would have been about half the size, and a lot better for it. As it is, I got thoroughly bored at regular intervals.

Some have commented on the heavy mathematical nature of the book. I feel this is yet another example of the author's lack of understanding of his audience. He would freely move from some advanced mathematical subject to something totally light and superficial, then on to an in-depth political analysis, and then back to the start again, all several times on one page. This meant that I couldn't even skip the bits that did not interest me, as the scientific bits (which did interest me) were hopelessly interwoven with the irrelevant ramblings about other subjects.

All in all, one of the most boring books I've read in a long time. By contrast, I ordered The Cogwheel Brain at the same time as this book, and the difference between the two was about as great as it could be. Where this book was overly long and full of irrelevancies, The Cogwheel Brain was beautifully written, contained just enough material to keep you interested, and never wandered off the subject. I couldn't put that book down. By contrast, I had to push myself to pick this one up.

I'm very happy for those that enjoyed this book, but for me it was very dull and boring, and a waste of time and money. I would not recommend this book to anyone.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dense in parts, but a sense of character shines through, 16 Aug 2012
By 
Dr. Simon Howard "sjhoward" (Newcastle upon Tyne, UK) - See all my reviews
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This comprehensive biography is certainly detailed. It is, perhaps, the most thorough biography I've read. This allows a great insight into the character and intelligence of Turing, but it did quickly become unnecessarily dense in parts, and felt like it was veering off at a tangent by placing Turing's academic work in a wider context than was really necessary. I don't think the book needed to explain some of the mathematical concepts in quite the detail it did, nor did it need to explain in fine detail the sequelae of those concepts as discovered by others.

I was also a little uncomfortable with the degree of subjectiveness in this description of his life. Clearly, it is impossible for any biography to be written from a totally objective stand-point, but it is clear that Hodges stands in awe of Turing, and constantly tries to explain and justify anything that could be seen as a fault in him. There were times when motives and opinions seemed to have been assigned to Turing's actions without a clear explanation given as to how Hodges had derived these, which made me question their veracity. I'm also awed of Turing and think he's a giant of our age, but even I found the warmth, bordering on sycophancy, of this book a little overbearing. I think the point would have actually been made more strongly had the reader been left to draw their own conclusions from a more objective description of the events.

I was disappointed with some of the omissions of this book. Turing was clearly a man with a strong sense of morality and ethics, and yet cryptography - perhaps his best-known skill - has inherent within it the ethical complexity of choosing when to act on intelligence, and when to ignore it and effectively sacrifice people in order to maintain the illusion that the code has not been broken. This, to me, is one of the most profoundly interesting parts of the work completed at Bletchley, and of cryptography, yet this is given relatively short shrift in this biography. I feel sure that Turing would have reflected on this point, and probably had interesting things to say about it, so it seems a shame that they aren't discussed here. Perhaps this reflects a wider criticism of the book - it's difficult at times to pick out Turing's character amongst the reams of detailed mathematical and computational theory. That said, I think the story and an impression of the character of Turing does manage to shine through over the course of the book as a whole, even if it is hard-going in parts.
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(ALAN TURING) BY HODGES, ANDREW[ AUTHOR ]Paperback 03-1992
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