Alan Turing
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Alan Turing : The Enigma

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A new edition to celebrate Alan Turing's centenary, includes a new foreword by the author and a preface by Douglas Hofstadter. Alan Turing was the extraordinary Cambridge mathematician who masterminded the cracking of the German Enigma ciphers and transformed the Second World War. But his vision went far beyond this crucial achievement. Before the war he had formulated the concept of the universal machine, and in 1945 he turned this into the first design for a digital computer. Turing's far-sighted plans for the digital era forged ahead into a vision for Artificial Intelligence. However, in 1952 his homosexuality rendered him a criminal and he was subjected to humiliating treatment. In 1954, aged 41, Alan Turing committed suicide and one of Britain's greatest scientific minds was lost.

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Product details

  • Paperback | 768 pages
  • 130 x 196 x 38mm | 480.81g
  • Vintage Publishing
  • VINTAGE
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 1
  • 0099116413
  • 9780099116417
  • 10,431

Review quote

"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

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About Andrew Hodges

Andrew Hodges is a 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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Review Text

The conflicted life of "an ordinary English homosexual atheist mathematician": Alan Turing (1912-1954), of cryptanalysis and computer fame. From his own mathematics and gay-rights background, Hedges reconstructs Turing's discoveries and his dilemma in a kind of dynamic tension - seeing Turing, with considerable subtlety, as an intellectual and sexual individualist. This is not a book for the casual or lay reader, however: in describing Turing's mathematical coups at Cambridge in the 1930s, and his work on the Enigma machine at Bletchley Park, Hedges deals matter-of-factly with abstract concepts and technical detail. The pages are populated, not just for color, with the likes of von Neumann, Wittgenstein, and Michael Polanyi. But there is also an acute sense of the surrounding, changing world - and, cumulatively, some striking formulations. Turing publicly announces, in 1947, that no line separates the "unconscious automatic machine" and the "higher realms of the intellect." Says Hedges: "At heart it was the same problem of mind and matter that Eddington had tried to rescue for the side of the angels by invoking the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. But there was a difference. Eddington had addressed himself to the determination of physical law. . . . But the Turing challenge was on a different level of deterministic description, that of the abstract logical machine. . . . There was another difference. Victorians like Butler, Shaw, and Carpenter had concerned themselves with identifying a soul, a spirit, or life-force. Alan Turing was talking about 'intelligence.'" Intelligence, Hedges goes on to note, had won the war; for Turing's generation, intelligence had routed Blimpish stupity; the socialist postwar state was going to be administered by intelligent functionaries. (But: "The intelligent machine. . . would cut the intellectual expert down to size.") The personal story is feelingful and restrained. Turing's first, great love died at 19; his "gentle advances" were often rebuffed, without ill-feeling; he made no secret of his "tendencies," except to his family; he was once engaged (to a woman undaunted by those tendencies); by the 1950s, he was part of England's "network of flashing eyes." And in 1952, rashly reporting a burglary involving a young lover, he was charged with "gross indecency"; pleaded guilty - evincing no guilt; and accepted organo-hormone treatment in lieu of prison. In 1954, seemingly himself, he committed suicide. (Examining the political clime, Hedges remarks: "The smallest event could have been the trigger.") Sophisticated and nuanced. (Kirkus Reviews)

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Back cover copy

'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 Alan Turing was the extraordinary Cambridge mathematician who masterminded the cracking of the German Enigma ciphers and transformed the Second World War. But his vision went far beyond this crucial achievement. Before the war he had formulated the concept of the universal machine, and in 1945 he turned this into the first design for a digital computer. Turing's far-sighted plans for the digital era forged ahead into a vision for Artificial Intelligence. However, in 1952 his homosexuality rendered him a criminal and he was subjected to humiliating treatment. In 1954, aged 41, Alan Turing committed suicide and one of Britain's greatest scientific minds was lost. '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

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