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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

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 (95 )
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  •  
    Kirstine Bonnyrigg, United Kingdom 04/08/2012
    Kirstine Bonnyrigg, United Kingdom 04/08/2012 Member Since 2007
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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.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Beatrice 08/07/2012
    Beatrice 08/07/2012
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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
  •  
    Mrs Wirral, United Kingdom 12/06/2013
    Mrs Wirral, United Kingdom 12/06/2013 Member Since 2011

    M H

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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.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Renee Bury St Edmunds, United Kingdom 14/10/2014
    Renee Bury St Edmunds, United Kingdom 14/10/2014 Member Since 2010
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    "Good but heavy on the technical detail"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Yes, I think I would but with the warning that it goes into A LOT of detail about the logic and maths behind the enigma, which can be a good thing if your mind is able to deal with that sort of information. I enjoyed it, but sometimes it felt like a Maths lesson.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Alan Turing: The Enigma?

    Just getting a deeper understanding of a very complex man.


    Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    Felt very frustrated about how homosexuals have been treated in our past.


    Any additional comments?

    This book is a pretty good split between the life story of Alan Turing - which as a lover of biographies I really enjoyed - and details about the paper he wrote on Computable Numbers, how the enigma worked, etc.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer 30/04/2014 Member Since 2013
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    "Incredibly detailed, but also incredibly dull"
    Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

    No, unless they were writing a dissertation on Alan Turing or were a die-hard fan.


    Would you recommend Alan Turing: The Enigma to your friends? Why or why not?

    No. It is the dullest book I have ever read or listened to. It is amazing that the story of such a great man, a hero to many, who lived such an incredible life in the most dramatic of times and through a World War, having been the inventor of computing, has been turned into such a dull and monotonous book. It is a travesty really. The only reason I persisted was out of respect for Alan Turing and his achievements.I can't fault the research, it is incredibly detailed and perhaps too much so. I would draw an analogy of reading this book to reading the dictionary. Incredibly detailed, but no life to the story.


    What do you think the narrator could have done better?

    Although he had been dealt a bad hand with this one, he could have perhaps attempted to inject a little more life into the narration.


    Do you think Alan Turing: The Enigma needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

    No, this covers everything.


    0 of 0 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.

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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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bill London, United Kingdom 23/12/2012
    Bill London, United Kingdom 23/12/2012 Member Since 2011
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    "How the singular mind works"

    Alan Turing was not your normal chap, but then normal chaps don't step so far out of the box to re-invent and drastically improve that box either. The cloistered academic community does have a place in this world if you think about it which is exactly what they were doing! Cool.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Petri Solf, Finland 14/07/2012
    Petri Solf, Finland 14/07/2012
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    "Interesting yet technical at times"

    Apparently the life of Alan Turing wasn't so special after all. Nevertheless, this is an interesting listen even though it gets very technical a couple of times. The reader was enjoyable to listen to most of the time, but his young Alan Turing voice sounds annoyingly innocent.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    michael d porteous 01/07/2013 Member Since 2009
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    "confusing..."
    Would you try another book written by Andrew Hodges or narrated by Gordon Griffin?

    no, I may listen to a book read by Gordon Griffin, as he is not responsible for the content of this book, but I will not listen or read a book by Andrew Hodges if he finds it necessary to fill it with uncomprehendable guff.


    What will your next listen be?

    hugh laurie


    Would you be willing to try another one of Gordon Griffin’s performances?

    maybe


    What character would you cut from Alan Turing: The Enigma?

    most of them


    Any additional comments?

    the story dwells far too long on subjecs like pure mathmatics, philosophy of mathmatics, mathmatical logic, mathmatical theory, etc etc etc, it uses words I have never heard because I have never done a masters degree in advanced mathmatics!, I will listen to the rest of the book because I have paid for it, but its a real effort!

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kev Partner Alton, Hamshire 23/07/2012
    Kev Partner Alton, Hamshire 23/07/2012 Member Since 2011

    Writer, geek, dad.

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    "Needs abridging!"

    I'm four hours in and I'm still listening to Alan Turing's school days which, as far as I can tell, were no more interesting or dramatic than the average. Somehow, Andrew Hodges has contrived to make the biography of one of the most interesting and influential figures of the 20th Century boring. Congratulations.

    2 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-10 of 13 results PREVIOUS12NEXT
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  • michael
    SCOTTSDALE, AZ, United States
    10/02/13
    Overall
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    Story
    "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!!!


    8 of 8 people found this review helpful
  • Blashy
    Québec, Canada
    11/07/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "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.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • Louis
    Sacramento, CA, United States
    06/09/12
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    Story
    "I enjoyed it immensely."
    What made the experience of listening to Alan Turing: The Enigma the most enjoyable?

    I was blown away. Good job.


    What did you like best about this story?

    Very much so, I have long been a fan of Sir Turning, this book has done him justice.


    What about Gordon Griffin’s performance did you like?

    Yes, I could not put it down.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Nothing, it was most interesting.


    Any additional comments?

    Bravo, nicely done.

    5 of 7 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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Mr
    Brookfield, WI, United States
    13/08/12
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "In Code"
    What did you love best about Alan Turing: The Enigma?

    I did not love any of it, However it was worth listening to it


    Would you recommend Alan Turing: The Enigma to your friends? Why or why not?

    Not really , to much Guy Sexual discussion toward the end of the book


    Which scene was your favorite?

    None


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    No


    Any additional comments?

    If you want a book to try and understand Homosexuality and if you understand endless quoting of maths formula , then this might be for you, if you want to know more about code breaking look else where

    3 of 18 people found this review helpful
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