Listed as one of the essential 50 books of all time in The Guardian
Inspired the Academy Award-nominated film, The Imitation Game
It’s 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 classic biography of the founder of computer science, reissued on the centenary of his birth with a substantial new preface by the author, is the definitive account of an extraordinary mind and life.
A gripping story of mathematics, computers, cryptography, and homosexual persecution, Andrew Hodges's acclaimed book captures both the inner and outer drama of Turing's life.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 story 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.
©2012 Andrew Hodges (P)2012 Audible Ltd
As a non-scientific person, this book had too much for me to understand and absorb. BUT I enjoyed the book. I listened and learned how difficult it was for individuals who differed from what was accepted as the 'norm' decades ago. Made me more appreciative that we have changed many biases. Was unhappy thinking that Alan Turing, a genius, was put through such horrible personal choices --in spite of his scientific and intellectual contributions. I can't repeat any of the scientific 'stuff'--but I listened and learned.
I would recommend the book to anyone patient enough to go through all the technical and scientific details....and bravo for the scientific mind...just perfect for these folks.
The narrator was easy to listen to...which was good as it was a long book, of which 40% I couldn't understand.
If you've seen the movie starring Benedict Cumberbatch then you might be forgiven should believe that the contents of this book have been thoroughly covered by the excellent portrayals by the actors and derring do of the plot...
Don't be fooled, the movie only covers an absolutely tiny percentage of this wonderfully thorough and complete biography of Alan Turing.
The book is extremely long and at times might be challenging to those looking for a story of spies, codes and wartime intrigue since it covers in meticulous and glorious detail Alan's career as one of the greatest mathematical geniuses that ever lived and his superb work designing some of the earliest computers and programs.
Essential reading/listening for computer geeks, maths whizzes and this who wish to understand the difficulties of Alan's homosexuality which likely contributed to his suicide which robbed us of such a great man at the prime of his powers.
Excellent narration on the audiobook entirely doing justice to Andrew Hodge's epic writing and homage to Alan Turing and the early days of code breaking and computing.
Alan's life is an incredibly interesting story in many different facets, in his genius and foresight, his place in British society, and how his story affected the thinking of the day.
His link between the US and UK during WWII has much more than would be expected. He was the only connection for intelligence and he did it in a very unorthodox way that was successful.
He uses several different voices for a few characters and delivers the story in a meaningful way.
No, there are slow parts when he gets into very technical mathematical theories and problems.
Any of the Enigma books
Brit accent, but well done
Much background of the science of code breaking thru the war. He does a good job of describing the world and scientific situation at points during Turing's life. Very wordy but good words.
The story is great but the author gets too into the technical specifications of the machines. It is very much like Herman Melville, you have to weed through the hours of dribble to get to the good story.
If there was an abridged version, I would recommend it more. As a general rule, I like long books. In fact it is one of my search criterion. But this is the rare book that would have been better if it were about half as long.
Alan Turing was the most significant scientific mind of the 20th century, so were his accomplishments. I want to know as much as possible about this great mind. To say that this is too long and too detailed is idiotic. The narration is top notch and worthy of the subject. It is a tragedy for the human race that this great mind was crushed by ignorance and arrogance. If given his full life his accomplishments and the benefits to scientific knowledge would have matched or exceeded Einstein.
A good read, one that presents the man, as well as the society in which he lived. The entire story is embedded in the mathematical models & theories, that Turing was dealing with at that moment in his life.
The Narrator did a good job although there were a couple of hiccups.
Listen while I work, ride, drive & run.
Disturbing, haunting, tantalizing. Excellently read. Worthy of multiple reads. Film imitation game a tasty sample only. Consume both if you dare.
There was one chapter on cryptography and I found it fascinating...
It's a very slow moving book, and I felt comfortable being able to pop in and out as I wished.
The most? - The WWII intelligence work.
The least? - The chapters and chapters of math and logic theory...
Could have been more in keeping with the author's compassion...
So much more than you can even imagine!
I love this book, but I would probably have edited it down by half...
"Very well written but too long"
Very well written but too long. Despite the author's self indulgent rambling frequently losing focus on his subject this is an excellent book. A ruthless editor could have made it a great book. The reader did a fine job although his American accent needs some work!
"Great performance. Major flaw in the story."
The bits I understood were very well written. But the huge chunks of mathematics left me totally floundering. I'm not a scientist nor am I much good at maths. I very nearly gave up on this book during the maths parts.
The book is excellently narrated by a gent with a very commanding yet soothing voice. His American accent leaves a lot to be desired though :-)
All in all, if you don't mind zoning out from the tech stuff, or you understand it, then it's a good listen.
"Turing an enigma."
Great story superbly read. My only criticism is that the writer could have reduced its length by half without loss of quality.
Then I would have had to give it 5 stars.
"Great scholarship, but not a great audio book"
No, not even if the friend wanted to know everything there is to know about Turing. It just doesn't feel focused enough. A lot of the time, it's about Turing's work, rather than his life, or the work of someone who knew him, or the work of someone who did related stuff, such as Charles Babbage. There's nothing wrong with that, but...
A lot of the work described is mathematics, and cryptology, both of which interest me immensely (I've studied both with the Open University) but as a linear spoken description without diagrams, I found it a bit blah and hard to follow. Heaven knows what people with a casual (or no) interest in these subjects would make of it!
Then there's the metaphors, and allusions to works of literature. I couldn't make head or tail of the references to the characters in the Alice books, and these are characters I know well!
Then there's Turing's trip to the Land of Oz. This is not the fictional country that features in L. Frank Baum's series of novels, nor is it the colloquial name for Australia - it is in fact America. It's not clear if it's Turing or the author who thinks of America as Oz.
Greatly abridge the "work of" parts; instead of trying to cram it all in, just tell us the relevant-to-Turing stuff, and perhaps suggest a "for further study" for those of us who want a complete-with-diagrams explanation of how an Enigma machine works.
Occasionally remind us who characters are when they haven't been mentioned for the past six hours. It is, after all, practically impossible for the listener to check back.
Make adaptations appropriate to the change of medium. There's one bit that goes on about the umlaut in the person's name - perhaps you could tell us which person, and which letter the umlaut appears with!
And abridge the stuff after Turing's death. Keep the facts in, but the endless stream of metaphors come across as platitudes.
Dear lord no. In the early years he gave Turing a little boy's voice which had me saying aloud, "I hope he grows up soon!" Often it was hard to tell at first if something was the author's text, something Turing himself had said, or a commentary from someone else. I'd suggest taking a leaf from Richard Dawkins' Selfish Gene for clarity in this area.
I want to know more about Bletchley, and I did in fact download an audiobook on the topic, but I'll probably concentrate on paper books.
As a lecturer in computer programming, I feel better equipped to do my job. I certainly have a better appreciation of computers than I did.
Whilst not the most enjoyable audiobook, it is in places very edifying. It does give a sense of what the British were up against during the war, and how little regarded "those do-nothings at Bletchley Park" were at the time. Being a gay man wasn't a barrel of laughs back in Turing's day, but I doubt anybody will be surprised by that. More shocking was the use of "corrective" chemicals on males as young as 14, and how it was accepted that you didn't need the subject's consent.
In short, the book was not much fun but I am glad I persevered. Next up, something frivolous...
"One for the intellectuals"
A couple of things stood out in this book. The first is that I am too stupid to fully appreciate this book. The second is that while being brilliant and an influential person in computing, Turing didn't have an interesting enough life to justify such a long autobiography. That isn't to say he doesn't deserve to have his life documented, just that it doesn't make for the best listen. Again this is a personal thing of enjoying lighter biographies like Steve Jobs.
If you are more knowledgeable about computing and maths then you will get a lot more from this book as you will be ale to understand the finer details which made up so much of the bulk of the material. For me it went right over my head and there would be hours when I just switched off.
This book is also a biography of computing and maths as well as Turing. Sadly my maths doesn't go beyond GCSE and I felt I was missing out on a lot while listening.
The narrator was perfect in my opinion. It deserves pointing out.
"Insight into a genius and a man"
I enjoyed this book because it made me understand as Alan Turing's interests in various branches of science led him to start the era of the computer, to figure out a machine could be developed to have an intelligence which is a wonderful tool for human intelligence and can even challenge it. And also this book portrays Alan's personal life, explains his love for freedom, truth and integrity, how he stood up to prejudices of society until he died. The listening was wonderful and involving, I loved it.
It was always going to be a hard story to listen to - should have tried the abridged version - far too much maths and science altogether for a layperson to take in. Did finish it though - now can watch the film version with a greater understanding and appreciation of a much wronged genius.
"Unless your a super geek don't listen"
I really thought this was going to be a good listen however it is so technical you really need to be a super geek to enjoy it.
"To much for a leisure listener!!"
I saw the movie which was brilliant and was left wanting more. I'm afraid this book didn't give it. There were just too many lists of mathematics and not much story. My husband told me he just skipped huge chunks. I didn't do that because I wanted the story to flow. But I'm afraid I just gave up. I'm still interested in his story so maybe a less Mathematical one would be more to my liking!!
"Alan Turing's Big Idea Gave Us Our Modern World"
Moving; informative; compassionate.
Andrew Hodges’ biography of the British mathematician, Alan Turing (1912-1954) is listed as ‘one of the essential 50 books of all time’ in The Guardian. This biography is essential reading for anyone who wishes to understand 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. A very engaging story of mathematics, computers, cryptography, and homosexual persecution, Andrew Hodges' book involves the listener in both the inner and outer drama of Turing's life. It is very moving as well as informative.
The narration by Gordon Griffin is very good. However, why not ask Andrew Hodges to narrate his version next time.
The film of Turing’s life, ‘The Imitation Game’ is due for release in 2014 and starring Benedict Cumberbatch in the lead playing Alan Turing.
I would have called the film 'The Big Idea that Saved the 20th Century'.
The book is written as a true labour of love and was published in 2012 to mark the centenary of Turing’s birth. It may seem a little like hero-worship, but it describes how this one man saved the Allies from the Nazis, invented the computer, invented the concept of artificial intelligence, and possibly anticipated gay liberation by decades; this was all before his suicide at the age forty-one. But, in terms of ‘big ideas’ Turing ranks alongside Darwin.
This book is destined to be the definitive work about Turing’s life. All this from an Oxford mathematician whose students and colleagues may have known him best for his own work on ‘Twistor Theory’ and for his teaching at the Maths Institute and Wadham College, Oxford. Such a revelation to know that a modern mathematician can also write so movingly and so clearly.
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