B. Jack Copeland celebrates the life and work of one of the greatest scientists of the 20th century. Best known for the role he played in cracking German secret code Enigma during World War Two, and the personal tragedy of his death aged only 41, this is an insight into to the man, his work, and his legacy.
The introduction to computer pioneer Alan Turing by philosopher and leading Turing scholar Copeland reveals a life too complex for a short volume. Described by his mother as an "unsociable and dreamy child," Turing found his calling in mathematics, applying his talents to WWII code-breaking intelligence (efforts "kept secret for almost sixty years"), but the breakthroughs that earned him a place in history were those in software-centric and stored-program computing, developments that gave rise to the fields of artificial intelligence and artificial life. Turing's work was an exploration of the human mind via computers, though he theorized that there is nevertheless a "mysterious something" in the human mind that goes "beyond computability." It is an increasingly relevant inquiry, as Turing's inventions have spread from military-industrial applications into the everyday. Copeland is best at revising popular myths about Turing's life (including a rebuttal of claims that Turing committed suicide), but colorful digressions into contextual errata sometimes occlude these revelations. Perhaps this effect is intentional, presenting Turing as his contemporaries saw him: a puzzling enigma, a brilliant mind directing traffic at the intersection of man and machine. 20 b&w illus.