# Alan Turing

## The Enigma

Book - 2014It is only a slight exaggeration to say that the British mathematician Alan Turing (1912-1954) saved the Allies from the Nazis, invented the computer and artificial intelligence, and anticipated gay liberation by decades--all before his suicide at age forty-one. This acclaimed biography of the founder of computer science, with a new preface by the author that addresses Turing's royal pardon in 2013, is the definitive account of an extraordinary mind and life.

Capturing both the inner and outer drama of Turing's life, Andrew Hodges tells how Turing's revolutionary idea of 1936--the concept of a universal machine--laid the foundation for the modern computer and how Turing brought the idea to practical realization in 1945 with his electronic design. The book also tells how this work was directly related to Turing's leading role in breaking the German Enigma ciphers during World War II, a scientific triumph that was critical to Allied victory in the Atlantic. At the same time, this is the tragic account of a man who, despite his wartime service, was eventually arrested, stripped of his security clearance, and forced to undergo a humiliating treatment program--all for trying to live honestly in a society that defined homosexuality as a crime.

The inspiration for a major motion picture starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley, Alan Turing: The Enigma is a gripping story of mathematics, computers, cryptography, and homosexual persecution.

## Comment

Add a CommentThe book is fantastic, at least I think.

I'm a math student (Turing is a personal interest of mine) and loved the movie but this biography is SUCH A HEAVY READ. The author spends long pages describing uninteresting tidbits about Turing. Furthermore, the explanations on the various machines get very complicated very rapidly. If you're looking for something like the movie, prepare to be disappointed.

This is not an easy read for the non-mathematician and occasionally I was bored and confused but fascinating story of Alan Turing took me through to the end. Turing simply wanted to be a mathematician and be left alone. He expected the male world to work for him but it didn't and he was baffled that as a gay man he couldn't live simply without taking a public stand. We learn that he was a very principled man described by a friend as having "a lack of reverence for everything except the truth." As a free thinker detached from the conventions of society Turing played the pawn and ultimately obeyed the rules and thereby paid the ultimate price.

His genius brought him to the war effort where he was instrumental in breaking down the German enigma codes and thereby shortened the war saving thousands of lives. His work also led to the creation of today's computers. Alan Turing simply wanted to be left alone with his thoughts, his research and his homosexuality. But it was not to be!! Alan Turing: a genius and an enigma!!

I agree with some of the other reviewers here - this is too in depth a biography. But it does provide a comprehensive history of encrypting technology from the 1930s to the 1950s - including a quite detailed explanation of how the centrepiece of the mechanical side of the story, the Enigma machine, worked and how the code was cracked - helping the Allies in winning World War II. By today's standards, it's hard to imagine that a genius like Alan Turing would have been discredited for the mere fact he was gay - but sadly that's how things were in those days. It can be said that Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace imagined the computer in the 19th. Turing actually made one work which is also to his credit. The original text is about 30 years old, and with only slight updates to reflect new research, it is still fresh today even if it gets tedious at times.

Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges

Nothing like the movie. Do not expect it- it is by far larger, more significant, and more thrilling. You cannot do a movie about this complex yet straightforward man without it being trite.

The book is dense: took me a while to understand the sections on logic. The author has not gone into deep math but has delved into the philosophical explorations of Turing, his life and his tenuous place in society.

Loved this book, struggled through it but thrilled by it. Alan Turing was a man who made a difference in everything: maths, cryptanalysis, physics, chemistry, biology and of course, computers.

I recommend this book highly for the two months I put into it have been totally worth it.

This is an absolutely fascinating book about one of my favorite historical characters. I would highly suggest it, but only those who don't shy away at lengthy works.

Source material for the recent film "The Imitation Game," this book is a tough but rewarding read for those who have trouble understanding the importance of modern gay rights activism. Without Professor Turing's contribution, WW2 could easily have continued for several more years, costing millions of dollars and countless lives, yet Great Britain's archaic laws against male homosexuality led to his suicide at age 41. And, of course, he gave us the intellectual foundation for the modern computer. Author Hodges is both a mathematician and a historian; not only does he document Turing's life but he understands his work which, I must confess, I do not. But I do understand that to condemn anyone based on their sexual orientation is a loss to all of us.

I borrowed this book 3 times. (1 extension and 2 borrowing). Reason is this is not an easy book to read. I studied math for 11 semesters in my student days and then worked in the IT industry in various position, technical and managerial. I have read many books on the history of the computers. Even this is not sufficient to understand the advanced math and the complexities of the topics discussed in extensively in this book. This is not just a biography and but a documentation of advanced math used to encrypt and decrypt secret war messages in World War II and in developing the computer to win the war. An absolute must to read by all interested in cryptography, math and early history of computers.

Fascinating account of Turing's scientific and personal lives. The narrative about mathematics is hard going for someone like me who didn't get past high school algebra, but it's worth making the effort because even if you don't understand everything being explained, you will come away with a real respect for Turing and his genius.

A later comment, after having finally finished the book:

This is a lengthy book and hard going at times, but the author places Turing and his life and work in the context of the social and cultural atmosphere of the times in which he lived, and makes many thought-provoking observations about the world that humans have created. Worth the effort! And beautifully written, as well.

Congratulations to author Andrew Hodges for making the amazing world of quantum physics accessible to non-scientists. What an awesome contribution Alan Turing made to humanity. A great biography - enjoy!