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#233 David Leavitt: The Man Who Knew Too Much: Alan Turing and the Invention of the Computer

David Leavitt: The Man Who Knew Too Much: Alan Turing and the Invention of the Computer

Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Phoenix (1 Jun 2007)
ISBN-10: 0753822008
ISBN-13: 978-0753822005
Category(ies): Biography

Alan Turing is possibly the most famous man in the history of the computer. He's certainly one of the most interesting: one of the lead thinkers in the breaking and re-breaking of the Enigma codes, a feat that probably cut months from the length of the Second World War. But he's also famous for the concept of the Universal Turing Machine (which showed that a sufficiently capable computer could emulate any other, if perhaps slowly), and for the hypothetical Turing Test (where he considered the possibility of artificial intelligence, and proposed that if you couldn't tell the difference between the responses of a machine and of a human, then you might as well consider the former to be intelligent).

He was also a homosexual: one who, in the rarefied world of Cambridge academia, had not learnt to hide it. And who, on moving up to Manchester, was still open about it, to his ultimate cost. In the end, it led to him coming under pressure from the authorities, and he took a bite out of an apple laced with cyanide (yes, where do you know the apple with a bite out of it from?).

A fascinating man, and an interesting biography.
Tags: books, reviews
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