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Alan Turing: The Enigma: The Book That Inspired the Film

Alan Turing: The Enigma: The Book That Inspired the Film "The Imitation Game"

3.4 21
by Andrew Hodges

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The official book behind the Academy Award-winning film The Imitation Game, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley

It is 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



The official book behind the Academy Award-winning film The Imitation Game, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley

It is 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 New York Times–bestselling biography of the founder of computer science, with a new preface by the author that addresses Turing's royal pardon in 2013, is the definitive account of an extraordinary mind and life.

Capturing both the inner and outer drama of Turing’s life, Andrew 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 account 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.

The inspiration for a major motion picture starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley, Alan Turing: The Enigma is a gripping story of mathematics, computers, cryptography, and homosexual persecution.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
A New York Times Bestseller

The Imitation Game, Winner of the 2015 Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay

Winner of the 2015 (27th) USC Libraries Scripter Award, University of Southern California Libraries

One of The Guardian's Best Popular Physical Science Books of 2014, chosen by GrrlScientist

"Scrupulous and enthralling."—A. O. Scott, New York Times

"One of the finest scientific biographies ever written."—Jim Holt, New Yorker

"Andrew Hodges' 1983 book Alan Turing: The Enigma, is the indispensable guide to Turing's life and work and one of the finest biographies of a scientific genius ever written."—Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times

"Turing's rehabilitation from over a quarter-century's embarrassed silence was largely the result of Andrew Hodges's superb biography, Alan Turing: The Enigma (1983; reissued with a new introduction in 2012). Hodges examined available primary sources and interviewed surviving witnesses to elucidate Turing's multiple dimensions. A mathematician, Hodges ably explained Turing's intellectual accomplishments with insight, and situated them within their wider historical contexts. He also empathetically explored the centrality of Turing's sexual identity to his thought and life in a persuasive rather than reductive way."—Michael Saler,Times Literary Supplement

"On the face of it, a richly detailed 500-page biography of a mathematical genius and analysis of his ideas, might seem a daunting proposition. But fellow mathematician and author Hodges has acutely clear and often extremely moving insight into the humanity behind the leaping genius that helped to crack the Germans' Enigma codes during World War II and bring about the dawn of the computer age. . . . This melancholy story is transfigured into something else: an exploration of the relationship between machines and the soul and a full-throated celebration of Turing's brilliance, unselfconscious quirkiness and bravery in a hostile age."—Sinclair McKay, Wall Street Journal

"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

"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

"Andrew Hodges's magisterial Alan Turing: The Enigma . . . is still the definitive text."—Joshua Cohen, Harper's

"Andrew Hodges's biography is a meticulously researched and written account detailing every aspect of Turing's life. . . . This account of Turing's life is a definitive scholarly work, rich in primary source documentation and small-grained historical detail."Mathematics Teacher

"Tells a powerful story that combines professional success and personal tragedy."—Nancy Szokan, Washington Post

"[A] really excellent biography. . . . The great thing about this book is that the author is a mathematician and can explain the details of Turing's work—as a scientist, mathematician, and a code breaker—in a way that is easy to understand. He is also wonderful at the emotional nuance of Alan's life, who was a somewhat odd—a student was assigned to him in school to help him maintain a semblance of tidiness in his appearance, rooms and school work and at Bletchley Park he was known for chaining his tea mug to a pipe—but he was also charming and intelligent and Hodges brings all the aspects of his personality and life into sharp focus."Off the Shelf

"This book is an incredibly detailed and meticulously researched biography of Alan Turing. Reading it is a melancholy experience, since you know from the outset that the ending is a tragic one and that knowledge overshadows you throughout. While the author divides the text into two parts, it actually reads like a play in four acts. . . . This book is Turing's memorial, and one that does justice to the subject."—Katherine Safford-Ramus, MAA Reviews

"The new paperback edition of the 1983 book that inspired the film, with an updated introduction by Oxford mathematics professor Andrew Hodges, is an exhilarating, compassionate and detailed biography of a complicated man."—Jane Ciabattari, BBC

"If [The Imitation Game] does nothing else but send you, as it did me, to Alan Hodges's Alan Turing: The Enigma (1983, newly prefaced in the 2014 Princeton University Press edition) it more than justifies its existence. A great read, Hodges's intellectual biography depicts Turing as a brilliant mathematician; a crucial pioneering figure in the theorization and engineering of digital computing; and the biggest brain in Bletchley Park's Hut #8."—Amy Taubin, Artforum

"It is indeed the ultimate biography of Alan Turing. It will bring you as close as possible to his enigmatic personality."—Adhemar Bultheel, European Mathematical Society

"A book whose time has finally come. I found it to be a page-turner in spite of the occasionally esoteric explanations of mathematical theories that reminded of why Brooklyn Technical High School was not the wisest choice for me."—Terrance, Paris Readers Circle

"Thanks to the movie The Imitation Game, Alan Turing has emerged from history's shadows, where his memory had languished for decades. For anyone whose interest in the pioneering computer scientist, mathematician, and logician was piqued by the film, the book that served as the film's source material, Andrew Hodges's exhaustive biography Alan Turing: The Enigma, has the answers."—Frank Caso, Simply Charly

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Princeton University Press
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Meet the Author

Andrew Hodges teaches mathematics at the University of Oxford.

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Alan Turing, the Enigma: The Book That Inspired the Film, "The Imitation Game" 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 21 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is an amazing book. It is heartbreaking that a hero of the war effort in terms of breaking code and the father of the computer was destroyed by society for its prejudice against homosexuality. This is an excellent book. It is well researched and well written. I highly recommend it.
Andrew Hodges’ book about Alan Turing, published by Princeton University, is an honor to own and an illuminating read. Hodges brings Turing to life through his empathetic scrutiny of the resource material Turing left behind, and as Hodges says, “by meeting so many people who knew him.” Hodges says of his success in drawing this portrait of Turing, “first acknowledgment must go to my subject himself, who left behind a fund of goodwill on which I have repeatedly drawn.” That Hodges is himself a mathematician makes it possible for him to speak knowledgeably about the work that consumed Turing during his life. He illuminates the work in a way that only another mathematician could do. And for the non-mathematician, the bits of mathematical reading can be a bit heavy, but not so much so that it in any way detracts from getting to know him. Certainly we who never knew Turing couldn’t truly know and appreciate the man Turing was without knowing as much as we are personally capable of understanding about the work that was his passion. Turing’s professional legacy is well worth knowing for it had an immediate and crucial impact on the world in which he lived then, and it continues forward in time, escalating in significance to this day. The world we live in today would not be the same without the part Alan Turing played in shaping it. But the book is not only about Turing’s work. As we read we come to know the man himself quite well through Hodges free-handed inclusion of correspondence and reference material. I became quite fond of Turing as a person, and found that I had developed a profound respect for him ­ he was a person I would have wanted to know. Hodges, in documenting Turing’s life and work so well, has ensured that history will be able to look back and know from whence we came. We are unquestionably in the debt of these two men, Turing and Hodges, whose lives are bound through some mysterious quirk of quantum physics that led Hodges to Alan Turing. In his childhood, Turing had been profoundly affected by the death of his classmate, Christopher Morcum. In a letter quoted by Hodges, Turing writes to his mother: “I feel sure that I shall meet Morcum again somewhere and that there will be some work for us to do together…” I find that I can’t help but wonder if Christopher had a hand in drawing Hodges attention to Turing’s life.
manwithmanybooks More than 1 year ago
Book, movie--are important to read and see! Book is an important part of history that many did not know before. I always heard references to Alan Turing through other books but never really knew him until I read this book. It's history, it's intelligent, it's a non stop read.
Alf51 More than 1 year ago
Very difficult to bio such a complex person. Hodges did a masterful job in providing not only a bio of Turing, but of the history of computing, math, and Turing from his gensis. Make no mistake, it is hard read. Footnotes are plentiful and complex, though required to gain the knowledge and insight the author desires to convey. Just wished more of the foot noted data could have been woven into the body of the work. In my estimation Hodges did justice to Turing. The movie.... not so much!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I just went to see the imitation game today, and i was blown away by how brilliant Alan Turing was. I was heartbroken in the end to finally undersand the human races prejudce against homosexuals. I was reminined how much i am disgusted be part of the human race. Alan Turing wa amazing. He had an amazing mind. I wa exrremly sad at the end of the film, i was not familier with his story but now it is one i cannot stop thinking about.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Saying that somone was gay AND brilliant is not a political agemda at all. The hate that runs rampid and eventually killed Allan is why includings his sexual otientation is so importamt. He was brilliant and gay yes, but he was so much more. He saved the lives of thousands of people and changed history forever proving that gay people are more than the popculture over dramatic queens they are potrayed to be. This is a book everyone needs to have apart of their libraries.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was somewhat disappointed in two respects. It covered a tremendous amount of detail and seemed an endless account of Turing's life. More critical for me was that the book was long on conjectures. The author would present a few facts then make a supposition about how they applied to Turing and what he might have gleaned from them. I thought perhaps I just wasn't that interested in young Alan Turing so I skipped to the sections at Bletchley and found it still a rough go. I agree with the person who said the book could have done with a more judicious editing. Turing seemed a very private person, hence fertile ground for theorizing but the books seemed to carry this to extremes at the expense of the narrative. I know British scientists are capable of writing very eloquently but that hasn't happened here. See the movie, read the play, read the non-fiction books on Enigma.
ryeLee More than 1 year ago
Alan Turing is an amazing mathematical genius who is now my personal hero. Hodges did an excellent job researching and writing this book. But best of all, it is about Alan Turing, a person well worth knowing about.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Way too much detail. I have no idea what these technical math issues are and don't care about letters he wrote in grade school. There were parts that kept me going but over all, I would tell people to read another book about Turing and his important work.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
expected more - way too technical; movie was better
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found this book to be long, boring & very technical.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book is lengthy but it analyzes deeply how Alan Turing was. His basic contributions to computer programming were exttraordinary. I am one of those who, while not being a mathematician, am deeply interested in codes and cryptography and was enthralled by his ideas and how he advanced the science of secrecy in communications. How poorly was he repaid for his efforts!
groucho42 More than 1 year ago
Any book about Alan Turing that doesn't mention the Turing Test, furthermore one that manages not to do so in over 700 pages, is not going to be great. The book is ok in covering his life, but is overlong, jumps from over detailed to under detailed and is otherwise fairly poorly written. Still wade through it and you get a look at his life. Barely.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I dont like the idea of being gay or killing yo self but this man pretty much invented the computer in order to save the Allies
MarkInVa More than 1 year ago
An important historical figure and lots more detail than the movie but the book should have been edited to half its length.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Enough already. Stop with the agenda. I get it. He was gay AND brilliant.