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L'uomo che sapeva troppo: Alan Turing e l'invenzione del computer (Great Discoveries)

3.44  ·  Rating Details  ·  820 Ratings  ·  119 Reviews
Pensatore sregolato e rivoluzionario, matematico geniale in grado di violare durante la Seconda guerra mondiale il famigerato codice Enigma, utilizzato dalla Germania nazista; soprattutto profeta dell’intelligenza artificiale, da lui teorizzata già negli anni Trenta quando non era stato ancora creato il primo computer. Ma anche uomo insicuro, solitario e tormentato, etiche ...more
Paperback, 248 pages
Published March 27th 2007 by Codice Edizioni (first published January 1st 2006)
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Joshua Nomen-Mutatio
Alan is five years old and taking a bite out of an apple for the first time. Human life is rich with such firsts, as we well know and make known with our various rituals and markings, preservations and engravings. First tooth. First step. First word. First day of school. First kiss. But many firsts go uncelebrated, unmarked, fail to be photographed or scrapbooked, and countless sums pass by human sensors unknown, even to those who personally bear them. No one—neither parents nor Alan or otherwis ...more
Jul 02, 2008 Megan rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-own
Halfway done and totally disappointed in this book. It skips between being an overblown gay biography of Alan Turing (being gay does define one's existence, but does it have to define EVERY MOVE YOU MAKE, too?) and a hopelessly confusing history of how math become computer science. I'm still slogging through, but my hopes are dashed.
Oct 03, 2012 Lil rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating perspective into the life of an eccentric genius. I probably should not have looked at other reviews first, because it's disheartening to see so many of them complaining "too gay." What I found so striking about this book was that Leavitt evidences how Turing's identity as a gay man was an essential part of his life, not just in the act of sexuality but in his thinking. There's the view of the outsider, the partition of "other" that coloured so much of his thinking about machines, ...more
Interesting and usually very readable biog of Turing which concentrates on his identity as a gay man and how this may have influenced aspects of his work. During his time at Cambridge, homosexuality was tacitly accepted and there was a significant, though of course rather underground, community of gay academics - including E.M. Forster - and students. This would of course contrast with the secrecy and shame he was subjected to later.

Naturally there are some pages of equations and mathematical d
Sep 27, 2011 Mark rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I expected more of a biography. Instead, it's an awkward combination of sketchy biography and layman's explanation of Turing's technical contributions. It's not bad, just not very good.
May 13, 2015 ^ rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: would not recommend this book
Recommended to ^ by: self-picked
I lost interest and gave up on page 26. So early! Feeble really; but I've just not been able to get back into it, despite trying.

The author's narrative reads too much like a first draft, a rough, barely-ordered laying out of sources without the subsequent necessary review, re-review, and knitting-together into a text that engages its reader as it flows. Was the sub-editor asleep at the time?

I am disappointed. After several deeply engrossing visits to the Bletchley Park site, and The National Mus
Dec 26, 2014 Yfke rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Though containing a lot of information, this book is a dry mess, making it difficult to read and slightly frustrating to anyone who isn't particularly gifted at mathematics to begin with. What bothered me most though, is the trouble Leavitt seems to have separating the scientist from his sexuality. The way he connects the two throughout the book is irritating and often far fetched. I think anyone interested in learning more about Alan Turing should take Leavitt's own advice and go for Andrew Hod ...more
May 10, 2008 Surreysmum rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, 2007, passed-on
I found this a fascinating book, even though the mathematical concepts in the middle chapters were a bit of a hard slog. Still, even if I didn't fully follow the explanations, it was entirely helpful to get a sense of the territories in which Turing's mind was working. And the bit about the Enigma machines was utterly absorbing.

I raised an eyebrow when I saw David Leavitt as the author of the book, wondering whether an author mostly known (or at least mostly known to me) as a writer of gay-centr
Nov 11, 2015 Holly rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, 2015-reads
Familiar with and generally admiring of David Leavitt's fiction I was impressed by his attempt to tell this story. Lest I sound equivocal [pun?], I'll say I would have enjoyed this book more by reading it on the page/e-ink screen than by listening to the audiobook as I did - though that's no fault of the reader, Paul Michael Garcia. But every number of every binary string was read: one one one one one one one one zero ellipses (yes, even the word "ellipses" was voiced) and I repeatedly "zoned" o ...more
rating: 4/5

This is a biography of Alan Turing, the man who was critical in decoding and building the computer (and the theoretical basis of the computer) used to decode the German Enigma machine and who pioneered AI theory. The tragic end of his life had me in tears at the injustice, a life and a genius lost (and a loss to society). His end was also poetic, (view spoiler).

The book is a bit dry, especially during the difficult math parts, but it is nec
Daniel Bryan
Jan 01, 2012 Daniel Bryan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Leavitt's biography of Turing shifts effortlessly between exposition on the philosophy and foundations of mathematics, Turing's groundbreaking work on computation and his fraught, repressed personal life.

Turing formulated a conceptual and technical framework for how a machine could be built that could be programmed to carry out arbitrary calculations all from first principles. Decades after his groundbreaking work on this subject, he was still patiently explaining the "surprising" discovery that
Maurizio Codogno
Questa biografia di Alan Turing ha un unico pregio: convincere il lettore a comprarsi quella scritta da Andrew Hodges, . Turing era omosessuale, e la sua omosessualità è stata la causa del suo suicidio, quindi è chiaro che essa è un tema fondamentale. Ma questo non dovrebbe significare leggere tutta la vita del matematico inglese in chiave omosessuale, a meno che uno non voglia farsi ridere dietro scrivendo ad esempio che "la strategia attuata da Turing d ...more
Matt Dean
I read this in order to lead a book group discussion. The book provided fodder for a long and interesting discussion. (We went overtime by half an hour or so.)

It's worth noting, though, that the book doesn't have quite the emphasis that I was expecting. Many, many, many more pages are spent on the mathematics than on the man. A lengthy explanation of the operation of a series of hypothetical Turing machines runs to 30 pages. On the other hand, it was a shock to learn that Turing was briefly eng
Feb 15, 2015 Nancy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wwii, biography
This book is uneven. 2.5 stars rounded to 3 because of a few good parts.

The first half of the book seems padded. Leavitt spends way too much time describing other homosexual scholars at Cambridge with whom Turning had no interactions. It seemed bizarre to write about men Turing might have met if only he had been less shy.

A section of Turing's WWII work to break the code of the German's Enigma machines is interesting and written in a way that a lay person feels like she almost understands how th
Peter Mcloughlin
Turing is a tragic figure who has always fascinated me both the father of the computer and indispensable in cracking the Enigma code of the Germans in World War II. He was brought down by his openly gay lifestyle and his obliviousness to danger of his out behavior in 1950s Britain where such behavior was illegal and thought to be a "security risk". He was arrested and forced to go through humiliating hormone treatments and publicly maligned. No one from the security service stepped forward to de ...more
May 22, 2015 Tracy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a really interesting book, however, listening to mathematical computations and numbers written in binary is not the most interesting thing in the world. In fact, it was quite tedious at times. I did enjoy learning more about Turing, so I guess the bit of boredom was worth it.
Jul 15, 2014 Margaret rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating story of a fascinating life. This is the second book I've read about Alan Turing and both taught me much about this extraordinary man. I only wish I could understand the mathematics better!
Dec 31, 2008 Liz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm a huge fan of Alan Turing's. A FAN. And god, if he isn't completely tragic.

I liked this biography especially because the author sat down and worked out some of the math, and spent time explaining decoding. But really, the important part was that they didn't gloss over the fact that--shock--Turing was gay.

Even for someone that likes to read nonfiction anyway, I was REALLY into this book. Only reason it took so long to get to it was school (since I bought this in the summer).

Great biography.
Chelle Costello
Nov 19, 2015 Chelle Costello rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book deals more with Turing's ideas than his tragic life, which is fitting, I think. He would have wanted that. It was good- the first half was extremely difficult to understand, being mathematical concepts and all, but it also blew my mind. It helped me to understand just how genius this man was. It opened doors to my teaching, too- I now incorporate the Liar's Paradox into my English classes. I do wish there had been a bit more about his tragedy, but I suppose that's what Benedict Cumberb ...more
An interesting book, with many details of the extent of Turing's wide ranging investigations into the fundamentals of mathematics and logic, together with the author's assessment of the relationship between Turing's homosexuality and indifference to social conventions and Turing's thought processes, also unconventional.

Ironic and sad that Turing seemed well aware of the effect of his unconventionality on his career, and was finally unwilling to accommodate the society and times in which he live
Seth Kramer
As a gay computer scientist and mathematician I have to agree with several reviewers. I feel the author has overemphasized Turing's homosexuality. Lots of conjecture about his feelings that is unsupported by any documentary evidence. Also there is a while chapter or two devoted to the minutiae of the original Turing "machine" that really offers little insight into his life and is quite dull. The book as a whole is an interesting read, but there are better Turing biographies.
Dec 30, 2014 Stanislavskij rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Quite informative to someone uninitiated in the details of Turing's contibution to computers, the deciphering of the enigma-machine and the development of artificial intelligence. Leavitt draws some ridiculous conclusions at times, though, even suggesting at one point that Turing wanted to build an intelligent machine because he could never find "true homosexual love."
Jan 30, 2015 Bill rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Full of scientific equations and formulas, and much less information on Turing's life, disappointing for what was supposed to be a biography. I hope the author sticks to writing fictional works, most of those I've read by him I enjoyed very much.
Nov 11, 2015 Lauren rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I saw the Imitation Game and became really fascinated by Alan Turing and his life. It's precisely why I chose this book over Alan Turing: The Enigma (the inspiration for the movie) because I thought it would talk more about his personal life. Instead, it was very technical and a tad bit dry. And while I appreciated having the chance to understand his work, it was more than I was expecting...because I'm not super mathy and my knowledge of math theory is severely lacking (maybe not so much anymore ...more
Gareth Parry
This book, by it's very definition, is a paradox. One part autobiography, one part Mathematicians wet dream. It started off, as all bio's do, by giving us a small insight into Turing's beginnings but then, by chapeter 2, it delves deep into mathmatics and computer theory.

I'll be honest, I was lost during the latter parts of the book ( the arguments between two, or more, scholars, went well over my head ).

The final part of the book is the only part that shows, or attempts to show, Turing as an
Dec 28, 2015 Eric rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think I shall have to go back and read the hard copy of this one, particularly for the early chapters on the descriptions for the "Turing machine" descriptions, although I had seen most of those in other works on Alan Turning and the computer. No earth shattering revelations on his work with code breaking in WWII, either, although it was an interesting refresher on that score. A relatively sensitive treatment of his complicated personal life, and a frank discussion of his death. There is refer ...more
Mar 22, 2015 Pilar rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Tedioso, decepcionante y carente de emotividad. No esperaba algo así de David Leavitt y supongo que de ahí mi enorme decepción; las expectativas eran bastante altas, teniendo en cuenta otras novelas que he leído del autor (Martin Bauman, Mientras Inglaterra Duerme o El lenguaje perdido de la grúas... por eso esperaba muchísimo más no sólo del autor, sino también del personaje retratado, Alan Turing. Pensé que podría completar el perfil apenas esbozado que de él se hace en la película The Imitati ...more
While I greatly enjoyed the more thorough biography by Andrew Hodges, this book has a lot to recommend it. Leavitt gives plenty of attention to math and the deeper implications of Turing's work, while still drawing very dramatic connections. The theme of Snow White and the apple was a particularly interesting one, for obvious reasons.

I would highly recommend this book as a quick look at Turing and the importance of his work - in both mathematics and computer science - for those who may not have
Ollie Ford
An interesting account, though does contradict itself in places. Could definitely be longer - becomes far less detailed as it progresses.
Jan 26, 2014 Coenraad rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book for two reasons: it is written by one of my favourite authors, David Leavitt; and it deals with Alan Turing, who was recently (late 2013) given a royal pardon from his conviction of 'gross indecency' in the 1950s. Oh, and the book had been standing on my shelf for some years ... Leavitt brings his novelistic experience and knowledge to this narrative. He places Turing in his time period by referring to similar figures, including E.M. Forster. Yet Leavitt also understands the mat ...more
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Leavitt is a graduate of Yale University and a professor at the University of Florida, where he is the co-director of the creative writing program. He is also the editor of Subtropics magazine, The University of Florida's literary review.

Leavitt, who is openly gay, has frequently explored gay issues in his work. He divides his time between Florida and Tuscany, Italy.
More about David Leavitt...

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