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Alan Turing: The Enigma | [Andrew Hodges]

Alan Turing: The Enigma

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.
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Publisher's Summary

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

What the Critics Say

"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." (NYT Book Review)

"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)

"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.)

"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)

"An almost perfect match of biographer and subject. . . . [A] great book." (Ray Monk, Guardian)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.8 (175 )
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4.0 (119 )
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  •  
    Mrs Wirral, United Kingdom 12/06/2013
    Mrs Wirral, United Kingdom 12/06/2013 Member Since 2012

    M H

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "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.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bea Italy 08/07/2012
    Bea Italy 08/07/2012 Listener Since 2009

    Beatrix

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    "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.

    6 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dinah United Kingdom 30/12/2013
    Dinah United Kingdom 30/12/2013 Member Since 2013

    Dr Dinah Parums. I am now retired and have always been an avid reader of fiction, non-fiction and biography. Audible have widened my range.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Alan Turing's Big Idea Gave Us Our Modern World"
    If you could sum up Alan Turing: The Enigma in three words, what would they be?

    Moving; informative; compassionate.


    What did you like best about this story?

    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.


    Have you listened to any of Gordon Griffin’s other performances? How does this one compare?

    The narration by Gordon Griffin is very good. However, why not ask Andrew Hodges to narrate his version next time.


    If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    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'.


    Any additional comments?

    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.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kirstine Bonnyrigg, United Kingdom 04/08/2012
    Kirstine Bonnyrigg, United Kingdom 04/08/2012 Member Since 2014
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    "Postumous recognition of a troubled genius"

    This is a monumental biography of one of the great minds of the 20th century who, sadly, didn't get the recognition he deserved until well after his death. Despite some very complex descriptions of mathematical theorems, I was captivated by the mixture of Turing's personal life with his contributions to code-breaking and computing. Interwoven into the story one is reminded of how very different social norms were in the 1950s and how tragically Turing was cruelly treated by the system for being a homosexual.
    The narrator deserves a medal for his excellent rendition of over 30 hours of recording and mastering the mathematical notations.

    6 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ben 25/03/2015
    Ben 25/03/2015 Member Since 2012
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    "Good"

    Bit tough to follow in the middle but gives a very through account of Alan Turing's life.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    J. HUSTLER-STEELE Blairgowrie, Perthsire 20/03/2015
    J. HUSTLER-STEELE Blairgowrie, Perthsire 20/03/2015 Member Since 2008

    I love listening to books and enjoy a great listening experience. I listen to a huge amount of books and love it!

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    "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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mr Unagi London, England 15/03/2015
    Mr Unagi London, England 15/03/2015 Member Since 2014

    In a state of total awareness...

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    "Very interesting"

    It was a great listen, I just felt it was 10 hours too long. There were quite a few moments where I felt this part of the story doesn't need to be told.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Barbara 25/02/2015
    Barbara 25/02/2015
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    "Hard work!"

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dennis G. 14/02/2015
    Dennis G. 14/02/2015 Member Since 2015
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    "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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mikal 08/02/2015
    Mikal 08/02/2015
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    "amazing insight into a true genius."

    what a great man. A shame he did not live to see and experience how respected he now is.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-10 of 21 results PREVIOUS123NEXT
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  • Sara
    22/02/15
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    Performance
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    "A Fantastic Biography For The Patient Listener"

    I really enjoyed this biography of Alan Turing. I agree with others that the book is very long with extremely complicated ideas and concepts presented. To me it could not have been made shorter without damaging the author's ability to really get the story across. We could not come to know the man, Turing, without going through all the detail of his childhood, education, books read that influenced his thinking and perceptions, and his general take on life. I agree that this occasionally felt a bit laborious at times in the reading, but it was necessary. Further, the author's insights offered great depth to the experience of life in Europe, India, Great Britain and America in the first fifty years of the 1900s. The culture, biases, prejudices and scandals of the time are brought into high relief through Turing's life and experiences.

    I usually hate epistolary novels but in this case I loved hearing the letters exchanged between Turing and his family, friends and other scholars. It allowed us to hear Turing's own words and voice. This really brought the story to life for me.

    I thought that the narration was gently done with great care. I did not find issue with mis-speaking or stumbles other reviewers have commented on here in reviews. Yes it was plodding and careful, but I thought it went well with the subject matter.

    Recommended if you love a really good biography and want to know more about the origins of the computer and the experience of code breaking in WWII. Patience is required to let the story unfold, but I just loved it.

    10 of 11 people found this review helpful
  • Linda
    Longview, TX, United States
    31/12/14
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    Story
    "Mixed Review"

    This seems to me to be two stories, one technical, the other human. The human story makes my guts hurt. The technical story is in my opinion quite flawed. Perhaps the author tries to overwhelm with words what is not quite understood. The book is very long. There are endless technical discussions that more often than not poorly tied to any underlying thread or understanding of Alan Turing.

    I am technical and I long suspected that subjects described in length and with which I was not so familiar were gummed up, not quite on the mark and poorly related to telling us of the genius of A. Turing. When the topic turned to one with which I am quite familiar, this indeed proved to be the case.

    There are endless passages where there is no "thread". Topics are jumped back and forth through time with little coherency.

    The confusion of the story is increased by the faltering delivery of the reader. The reading is quite bad in the first 1/3 or so. The reader often hesitates where he should continue and continues which he should pause. You can try this yourself by reading a few sentences with the wrong inflections, pauses, etc and simple english will be rendered into nonsense. I found myself often jolted as sentence delivery was just "off".

    Thankfully, the reader got much better by the end. Of course, he had lots and lots and lots of practice.

    I think what I learned in this book will help me to quickly go to other sources and get a better understanding of Turing's technical contributions.

    However, it seems to me that the author misses almost completely the incredibly important point that Turing cut his way through previously unknown jungles of ideas. Many of the ideas discussed, at length, are long now, a daily reality of people's lives, so much so, that the ideas no longer seem remarkable. The book needed not just a discussion but a creative device to not just explain this but to make the innovative thought and problem solving significant to the twenty-firth century reader.

    Perhaps that's the most damning thing to say about this book, with its endless pages about the work of a truly creative man, is that the book showed no creativity in it's delivery of a very very long story.

    This book, with all its words, is not all bad. It just doesn't inspire - at least it did not inspire me.

    32 of 39 people found this review helpful
  • Ron
    Ocotillo, CA, USA
    01/11/14
    Overall
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    Story
    "Long, Detailed But Excellent Listen"
    Any additional comments?

    This book is especially interesting after having listened to George Dyson's Turing Cathedral, which paints the picture of what happened on the US side of the Atlantic during that time period and the very different but equally brilliant John Von Neumann.

    Alan Turing The Enigma is long, very detailed and is some places drags. But it IS meant to be a "definitive biography" so such is to be expected.

    The technical material presented was not too deep nor too shallow for me - an electrical engineer and programmer.

    In my opinion, you can not know Alan Turing without knowing his homosexuality and what he endured because of his independent nature. If such matters turn you off, then that's an intellectual loss for you.

    I can only say that I am delighted I chose to spend the hours listening to this book, especially given that I will soon be seeing the movie based on it.

    27 of 36 people found this review helpful
  • Blashy
    Québec, Canada
    11/07/13
    Overall
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    "WAY too technical !!"

    I wanted the biography of Alan Turing, now this book has his biography but well over HALF the book is just technical math stuff about the various projects he worked on throughout his life.

    If you are a math enthusiast and are interested in hearing a good 7 hours of it, this book is for you.

    20 of 28 people found this review helpful
  • michael
    SCOTTSDALE, AZ, United States
    10/02/13
    Overall
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    "Disappointed"
    What did you like best about Alan Turing: The Enigma? What did you like least?

    The general story is one of interest, but the book is painfully, painfully long. I am 7 hours into listening to the story and I am bored to tears. He is all of 21 years old at this stage. Rather than touching on some highlights about his upbringing we are being forced to listen to every detail about his childhood. Additionally, rather than paraphrase the mathematical steps in his early learning, we are forced to listen to lengthy dry, mathematical theories written longhand.
    I wanted to learn about the life of Turing,not relive each minute of it. There are almost 25 hours of listing to go... Someone needs to edit this book down to some thing more readable. And I am not opposed to long stories. I really enjoyed the Steve Jobs story. Fortunately, in that book, they did not read each and every letter home that he wrote before the age of 21. We desperately need an abridged version!!!


    28 of 40 people found this review helpful
  • Sam
    Bend, OR, United States
    22/03/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "I Wish it Was Abridged"
    Any additional comments?

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Michael
    Valencia, CA, United States
    28/09/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Really well done"
    Any additional comments?

    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.

    9 of 15 people found this review helpful
  • T. F. Boulden
    Memphis, Tennessee
    15/02/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "On numerous occasions words are misspoken"

    The overall performance is actually very good, but if you read the book along with the audio, you'll see that on numerous occasions a word is misread aloud changing the overall meaning of a sentence or making the sentence completely unintelligible.

    7 of 12 people found this review helpful
  • Tabitha Foster
    31/03/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Great read."

    The story itself is fascinating and very thorough. Gordon Griffin is very talented. I really enjoyed the book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Alex Hsu
    New York, NY United States
    31/03/15
    Overall
    "Long yet engrossing"

    Objective and comprehensive of turing's life special attention paid to turing's sexuality especially in the context of its time. Less dramatic but more realistic than the movie

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-10 of 39 results PREVIOUS124NEXT

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