Megan's Reviews > The Man Who Knew Too Much: Alan Turing and the Invention of the Computer

The Man Who Knew Too Much by David Leavitt
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Jun 13, 2008

it was ok
bookshelves: books-i-own
Read in July, 2008

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.
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05/29/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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Bennet This is a completely accurate description of this book.


message 2: by Joshua Nomen-Mutatio (last edited Aug 30, 2009 08:37AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joshua Nomen-Mutatio I haven't read this, but I've been planning to. I'm wondering if the aspect of his homosexuality might seem focused on too much because during the time and in the place he was living in homosexuality was illegal and would therefore shape a homosexual's life in more direct and dramatic ways than it would, say, today for someone living in a more tolerant social setting? After all, leading up to his death Turing was arrested and sentenced to mandatory chemical castration, the hormones which were injected regularly against his will caused him to grow breasts and develop mental problems for all kinds of physical and psychological reasons. But even then I could see the focus on his sexuality being overdone (I've just read some more reviews and gather that the author tries to connect Turing's sexual orientation to some of his mathematical and scientific developments, which sounds pretty suspect to me). Anyway, I was just curious and thought I'd throw that out there as a possible explanation.

Oh, and I just finished watching a documentary that featured Turing which is what prompted this comment, by the way.


message 3: by Paul (new) - rated it 1 star

Paul My problem with the book besides it being incredibly dry was, as the OP states, the author' s assertion that it was Turing's sexuality that was responsible for all his breakthroughs, rather than his single-minded focus on order and other potential indicators of some sort of autism spectrum disorder that the author mentions but doesn't seem to connect. Also, the continued emphasis on the book Maurice and several plays of whic I'd never heard/read was highly annoying. He just assumes everyone was familiar with them.


message 4: by Megan (new)

Megan I got 35 pages in before I stopped because he stopped talking about Turing and just started going on about other mathematicians.

Your review is very accurate.


message 5: by Lea (new) - added it

Lea I managed to read approximately 150 pages and then just had to give up, which I rarely do with books. I'm very disappointed. Turing was a brilliant and fascinating person. Sadly, this book is neither.


John Greer I skipped the whole first chapter and am painfully trying to get through chapter 2.


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