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

3.45 of 5 stars 3.45  ·  rating details  ·  582 ratings  ·  86 reviews
"One of the most important openings in the path to the modern computer was made by the British mathematician Alan Turing - remarkably, while he was solving an entirely different problem. Shy and insecure about his middle-class origins, considered eccentric by those who did not know him well, Turing could show those close to him sly humor and bracing candor - even about his ...more
Paperback, 248 pages
Published 2007 (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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
Feb 04, 2015 ^ rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  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
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!
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.

poteva essere più biografico, o più matematico, non lo so. forse più filosofico. in realtà è tutte e tre le cose insieme, ma non legano abbastanza. non è per niente psicologico, ed è un peccato perché ci sarebbe stato tanto da ingagare sulla figura psicologica di turing. invece si limita a citare le sue stranezze, le sue difficoltà, il suo isolamento, la sua infelicità e incomprensione. il suo rapporto con la madre traspare appena come patologico, unicamente dalla quantità morbosa di citazioni d

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."
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.
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
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.
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
Alan Turing è entrato nella mia vita piuttosto presto, come in quella di qualunque informatico.
Chiunque abbia studiato programmazione avrà affrontato durante i suoi primi passi la famigerata "macchina di Turing", amore e odio (più odio che amore, in tutta onestà) di un sedicenne interessato a entrare nel vasto mondo della programmazione di software.
Della sua vita privata non sapevo niente e sono rimasto nell'ignoranza letteralmente per decenni, fino a quando non ho avuto notizia del perdono real
Overall this book was ‘meh’. I couldn’t get into it and it wasn’t what I thought it would be. With the title and the blurb I assumed the book was about Alan Turing and his life and not the history of inventions which led to modern computers. I was clearly wrong.

The book was interesting, but I just didn’t enjoy it. There was too much math and science (sometimes explained nicely so that a non-mathematician could understand it) and not enough biography. Again, this was apparently my misunderstandin
Laura Testoni
Un libro ibrido
"L'uomo che sapeva troppo" è un'opera ibrida:
- Non è fino in fondo un romanzo, perchè racconta, credo fedelmente, il percorso scientifico intellettuale e umano di Alan Turing.
- Non è fino in fondo un'opera di divulgazione scentifica anche se molte pagine sono di buona divulgazione e non facili (per me).

Il punto è che David Leavitt (scrittore intimista, talentuoso, post-minimalista - corrente lettraria molto di moda negli anni Ottanta) è davvero molto partecipe e apertamente emp
I read this book in order to decide whether to recommend it to my gay book club. My timing was fortuitous as Turing is now in the news, about to be pardoned for the charge of gross indecency, which apparently lead to his apparent suicide. (Nothing seems quite clear.)
In the end I won't recommend it to my book club, because there is far too much math and too little that they would find of any interest, so that even though I do retain some residual interest in this kind of math, I would not inflict
Anand Gopal
Leavitt turns the life of Alan Turing, one of the Twenty Century's foremost mathematicians and the conceptual forefather of the computer, into a riveting and satisfying read. Turing was openly gay in pre-war Britain, when homosexuality was still very much under illegal. Leavitt charts the mathematician's life through his discovery of the universal machine, his work as a code breaker during the war, and his later forays into theories of artificial intelligence. The tale culminates in a startling ...more
Most people have heard of the Turing test, but not enough people know about the man whose idea that was, Alan Turing. Unless you're a math/computer science geek, you may not have even heard of the guy—which is a real shame, because his ideas were instrumental in the development of the computer and, as if that weren't enough, he also played a major role in helping the Allies win WWII by wielding math against the Germans' encryption machine. The algorithm is mightier than the sword.

This book is qu
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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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