Alan Turing: The Enigma: The Centenary Edition Paperback – May 27, 2012
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"Andrew Hodges's biography is a meticulously researched and written account detailing every aspect of Turing's life. . . . This account of Turing's life is a definitive scholarly work, rich in primary source documentation and small-grained historical detail.", Mathematics Teacher
"Andrew Hodges's magisterial Alan Turing: The Enigma . . . is still the definitive text."---Joshua Cohen, Harper's
"Andrew Hodges' 1983 book Alan Turing: The Enigma, is the indispensable guide to Turing's life and work and one of the finest biographies of a scientific genius ever written."---Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times
"One of the finest scientific biographies ever written."---Jim Holt, New Yorker
"A first-class contribution to history and an exemplary work of biography."---I. J. Good, Nature
"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
"A superb biography. . . . Written by a mathematician, it describes in plain language Turing's work on the foundations of computer science and how he broke the Germans' Enigma code in the Second World War. The subtle depiction of class rivalries, personal relationships, and Turing's tragic end are worthy of a novel. But this was a real person. Hodges describes the man, and the science that fascinated him--which once saved, and still influences, our lives."---Margaret Boden, New Scientist
"On the face of it, a richly detailed 500-page biography of a mathematical genius and analysis of his ideas, might seem a daunting proposition. But fellow mathematician and author Hodges has acutely clear and often extremely moving insight into the humanity behind the leaping genius that helped to crack the Germans' Enigma codes during World War II and bring about the dawn of the computer age. . . . This melancholy story is transfigured into something else: an exploration of the relationship between machines and the soul and a full-throated celebration of Turing's brilliance, unselfconscious quirkiness and bravery in a hostile age."---Sinclair McKay, Wall Street Journal
"The Bible of Turing biography."---Alvy Ray Smith, Notices of the AMS
From the Back Cover
"One of the finest scientific biographies I've ever read: authoritative, superbly researched, deeply sympathetic, and beautifully told."--Sylvia Nasar, author ofA Beautiful Mind
"A captivating, compassionate portrait of a first-rate scientist who gave so much to a world that in the end cruelly rejected him. Perceptive and absorbing, Andrew Hodges's book is scientific biography at its best."--Paul Hoffman, author of The Man Who Loved Only Numbers
"A remarkable and admirable biography."--Simon Singh, author of The Code Book and Fermat's Enigma
"A first-rate presentation of the life of a first-rate scientific mind.... It is hard to imagine a more thoughtful and compassionate portrait of a human being."--from the Foreword by Douglas Hofstadter
- Item Weight : 1.32 pounds
- Paperback : 616 pages
- ISBN-10 : 069115564X
- ISBN-13 : 978-0691155647
- Product Dimensions : 5 x 1.75 x 7.75 inches
- Publisher : Princeton University Press; Revised Edition (May 27, 2012)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,807,407 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Some persons have written that the math in this book is intimidating. It could be, perhaps, but a deep understanding of math (especially group theory, combinatorics, and cyber-analysis), or Turing's unique and lasting contribution to our lives in his book Computable Numbers, is not necessary to understand the theses of the historical writing. I believe that readers who have passed high school math will at least understand the direction of the math in this book, which is really all that is necessary.
The trivia included rather than pruned shows a lack of writing skill. For example, in early chapters about Turing's schooling, one reads nearly every note sent home by a schoolmaster. But a more major event (nailing Turing under floorboards) was glossed over in a sentence without a comment by the author as to impact, or primary source quote concerning the incident.
More troubling is the utter boring chapter on Bletchley Park. How can this chapter be boring? Yet it is. The explanation and sketches of how Turing's machine worked are unsatisfactory. I didn't learn anything from the authors (and I had several advanced math classes in college). I contrast this with biographies of physicists, contemporaries of Turing but written by writers (Richard Rhodes, for example): gripping books that manage to explain quantum theory or the workings of particle accelerators quite well.
Absolutely unsettling is the jarring way the author skips from topic to topic. On one page he note that Turing accepted his sexual orientation; on the next there is talk of suicide. Again, there is no comment by the author. Considering how Turing's life ended, one would expect more explication here. Related to this topic is the story of Turing and Bob Augenfeld, the young refugee Turing sponsored. Turing propositioning the minor Augenfeld would today be classed as sexual predation, yet the author glossed over it, noting that Augenfeld remained friends with Turing. An alternative explanation might be that Augenfeld hoped Turing would help get his mother out of Vienna, and did not seek to sever the relationship for this reason. This was in 1941.
In summary, this book was slow reading, even for someone interested in the man and the topic. I give it 3 stars because of the importance of the topic and the many contribution Turing made to mathematics and computer sciences.
Top reviews from other countries
So why 5 stars? I have read more than my fair share of biographies over the years and in order for the author to receive their rightful praise and for the subject to be recorded, it is often appropriate for the author to leave no stone unturned and that is what I believe Andrew Hodges has done. I have no idea if he has missed anything out about Alan Turing's life, but from what I have read, this is a very thorough recording of this incredible man's life.
It is very thought provoking and removed some of my stereotypical prejudices and hopefully by watching the film, visiting Bletchley Park and listening to his dad going on and on about what a hero Alan Turing was, I hope that my 14 year old son has learned that not all heroes are involved in brave acts and that as a nation we have much to be grateful to this truly wonderful man. It is sad that our "establishment" drove this poor man to suicide and thankfully my son is growing in a more liberal society than the one that I grew up in as a child and therefore I would hope that we never persecute a man to the depths of despair and then sought to erase his achievements from the nation's history. Well done Andrew Hodges; I would like to see an abridged copy prepared for schools, not only would it allow children to see that not all heroes wore rows of medals, but that there is a place for everyone in our society whatever their views or persuasions.