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

Mar 07, 2016, 02:48 AM

3/6/16 (Photo: The 1.5 -ton statue of Alan Turing, by Stephen Kettle commissioned by the American billionaire Sidney Frank. This statue at Bletchley Park is made of about half a million pieces of slate quarried in Wales. People who knew him say this takes their breath away. Unfortunately, you can't see his coffee cup under his desk. The Man Who Knew Too Much: Alan Turing and the Invention of the Computer by David Leavitt. Initiated by the definitive biography Alan Turing, by Andrew Hodges (1983), the revival of the reputation of the computer theorist continues with this engaging treatment. Leavitt's signal accomplishment is a comprehensible explanation of the mathematical abstractions in Turing's seminal papers, "On Computable Numbers" (1936) and "Computing Machinery and Intelligence" (1950), from which derive the popular shorthand of the "Turing machine" and the "Turing test." On the biography side, Leavitt reveals a perceptive understanding of Turing's personality, one more sophisticated than the common view of Turing as a martyr to homophobia. Arrested for an infraction of a law against homosexuality, Turing committed suicide at age 42 in 1954. Its peculiar manner--Turing ate a cyanide-laced apple--induces Leavitt to integrate Turing's obsessions with the film Snow White, with an apparently unrequited love interest who died in Turing's teens, and with ESP into an unconventional speculation. Turing is the model of the solitary, absentminded genius. His tragedy and his intellectual significance, including his role in breaking German ciphers in World War II, come clear in Leavitt's hands. Gilbert Taylor Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.