Friday, May 4, 2012

Alan #Turing: the Enigma - interview with Andrew Hodges

IEEE Spectrum has put online a recent interview with mathematician and author Andrew Hodges. As you may know he wrote, back in the 1980s, the definitive biography of Alan Turing, Alan Turing: The Enigma, which focused on his mathematical achievements, his WWII code breaking and his gay lifestyle. I first read the book when I was a CS grad student and I have to say it wasn't an easy read - some sections require a mathematical background and it's long and very detailed. Also, although it's been a long time since I read it, I recall it had a strong gay rights thread running through the narrative. This resonated well in the mid-80s, since gay liberation was a hot political topic. Over 25 years later, with societies' views on homosexuality greatly altered (for the better), I'm not sure how those sections of the book will read now. We are all appalled at how Turing was treated by society in the 1950s, but we (mostly) do not share those views now. I would recommend this book to people who already know Turing's life story and want more detail. However, I can't comment on the new "Centenary Edition, which I assume contains some new material and revisions.
    You can listen to the interview with Andrew Hodges by clicking the player below.


[Disclaimer - Hodges and I are both on the Turing Centenary Advisory Committee]