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Alan Turing: The Enigma: The Book That Inspired the Film The Imitation Game Paperback – 13 Nov 2014
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"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 Hodges' 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)
"A first-rate presentation of the life of a first-rate scientific mind" (New York Times Book Review)
"One of the finest scientific biographies ever written" (New Yorker)
"A first-rate presentation of the life of a first-rate scientific mind…it is hard to imagine a more thoughtful and warm biography than this one" (Douglas Hofstadter New York Times Book Review)
About the Author
Andrew Hodges is Tutor in Mathematics at Wadham College, Oxford University. His classic text of 1983, since translated into several languages, created a new kind of biography, with mathematics, science, computing, war history, philosophy and gay liberation woven into a single personal narrative. He is an active contributor to the mathematics of fundamental physics, as a follower of Roger Penrose. See www.turing.org.uk for further material.
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The book considers Turing's life from childhood through to his tragic death, some have criticised the length of the sections covering his childhood and school days but these are essential in trying to understand Turing the human being. Turing's sexuality is a theme running through the book and unlike many studies which downplay his homosexuality and prefer not to dwell on it beyond offering the usual platitudes on his persecution this book sees it as absolutely essential to any effort to understand Turing as a human being. There are two qualities which raise this book above any others on Turing in my view, one is the fact that the author is not afraid of Turing's sexuality, the other is that the book actually tries to explain Turing's mathematical and computer science ideas. There is a danger that unless readers have a certain understanding of maths and logic these passages may be intimidating and incomprehensible however it is a real pleasure to read a book on Turing which does not reduce explanations of his work to a lowest common denominator such as to render it valueless. As a general comment, this book is not the easiest book to read, that may sound like a criticism but I do not mean it to be so. The book demands attention and the reader will have to invest a certain effort in reading it, that means iot is not the sort of passive absrorption experience of some biographies but the result is a vastly more rewarding experience that genuinely informs and educates.
The book shows that Turing's work was both much more and mmuch less than the popular conception. Much less in that his work at Bletchley Park was absolutely not the story of Turing's genius single handedly breaking German codes,the book acknolwedges the work of others at Bletchley Park such as Newman and Flowers and Turing's role in developing Colossus and breaking the Lorenz code was minor. Indeed after early 1943 Turing faded into the background. That is not to denigrate his contribution which was absolutely critical but it is important to recognise that Bletchley Park was much, much more than just Alan Turing. Much more in that the theory of computable numbers and the universal machine are placed in a much wider context and his post war work with NPL and at Manchester are given due attention.
This really is a wonderful book, it treats Turing as a human being and presents a rounded, complete picture.
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