Cover image for Turing and the computer
Turing and the computer
Strathern, Paul, 1940-
Personal Author:
First Anchor books edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Anchor Books, 1999.

Physical Description:
105 pages ; 20 cm.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
QA76.17 .S77 1997 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Offers an encapsulation of the groundwork that led to the invention of the computer as we know it, as well as an account of the eccentric and principled Turing, who set aside a brilliant career in mathematics to serve his country by breaking German codes during World War II (he was later put on trial on indecency charges and forced to undergo hormone treatments). Some of the topics covered include how Turing mapped out the theory of computers before a single computer had been conceived, how his Collossus broke the German Enigma codes, and his proof of the existence of artificial intelligence. No index. Annotation copyrighted by Book News, Inc., Portland, OR

Author Notes

Paul Strathern has a Ph.D. in Mathematics and Philosophy and lectures at Kingston University.

Strathern is the author of several novels, including A Season in Abyssinia, which won a Somerset Maugham prize, and Mendeleyev's Dream: The Quest for the Elements. He has also published two series of books, one on philosophy: Philosophers in 90 Minutes, and another on science, but is best known for his 39 short biographies of philosophers and scientists

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 1

Booklist Review

In these latest entries in the Big Idea series, Strathern examines Albert Einstein, whose theory of relativity changed thinking on space and time and launched the nuclear age, and Alan Turing, whose work on computability led to the development of the computer. Each book provides groundwork for its subject, particularly the social and scientific contexts of the time. Einstein and Turing were contemporaries and were at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, at the same time. Einstein was an eccentric, famous for being absent-minded. Strathern touches on Einstein's personal life: a child born out of wedlock, a troubled marriage and divorce, and a later marriage to a cousin. Einstein's "exceptional talent lay in his ability to think through the most complex formulae and problems to the fundamental principles underlying them." Einstein saw others go on to develop quantum physics, based on his theory; he used his fame to fight against anti-Semitism and nuclear weapons. Turing was an enigmatic character, somewhat antisocial and individualistic. Strathern describes him as "way ahead of himself, neglecting the basics." He developed a concept for a calculating machine that became the prototype for the digital computer. He used his talents during World War II to decode German messages. His open homosexuality led to scandal, a trial on indecency charges, and hormone treatments that ruined his health. As with the other books in the series, Strathern simplifies complex theories and provides insight into the character of his fascinating subjects. --Vanessa Bush