Alan Turing: the enigma

Notes by the author, Andrew Hodges

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2012 Centenary editions:

New Centenary editions, both British and American, appeared in 2012.

The new British edition of Alan Turing: the Enigma is from Vintage, Random House, London, and the new American edition is from Princeton University Press.

These editions are now virtually identical with a new 2012 Preface replacing all previous prefaces, and a Foreword by Douglas Hofstadter. Both have the original 540 pages of narrative, plus 46 pages of source notes and index, and 8 pages of photographs.

Order the UK edition from Amazon.co.uk.

Also available in a Kindle edition.

The complete book is on sale as a 30-hour audio from Audible.co.uk.

Order the US edition from Amazon.com.

Available also in Kindle edition.


Translations:

I am represented by Zeno Agency for questions concerning translation rights.

  • Translation into German by Rolf Herken and Eva Lack: Alan Turing, Enigma,
    ISBN 3-211-82627-0, Springer Verlag, Wien.

  • Translation into French by N. Zimmermann: Alan Turing ou l'enigme de l'intelligence,
    ISBN 2-228-88082-7, Editions Payot. This was an abridgement, but a new edition, including the entire work, is now in preparation.

  • Translation into Italian by David Mezzacapa: Storia di un Enigma,
    ISBN 88-339-0639-6, Bollati Boringhieri.
    I had the honour of receiving an Italian literary prize, the Premio Giovanni Comisso, in 1992.

  • Translation into Polish by W. Bartol, ISBN 85-7255-087-5, Proszynski.
    See an extract from the Polish edition. Now out of print. A new edition is being prepared.

  • Translation into Finnish, ISBN 952-5202-14-3, Alan Turing, arvoitus

  • Chinese translation, ISBN 7535768784, Hunan Science and Technology Press. Available here.

  • A Japanese edition is in preparation.

  • A Hungarian edition is in preparation.

Extracts

There are just three extracts on this site. One describes the Alan Turing's emotional and intellectual inspiration at sixteen, one the moral and political ambience of King's College, Cambridge, during Alan Turing's early years there. The third explains the origin of modern computer programming in Alan Turing's 1946 report.

Continue to the Index of Extracts

Update

Continue to the on-line Update.


R E V I E W S

The centenary edition, 2012

Turing's rehabilitation from over a quarter-century's embarrassed silence was largely the result of Andrew Hodges's superb biography, Alan Turing: The enigma (1983; reissued with a new introduction in 2012). Hodges examined available primary sources and interviewed surviving witnesses to elucidate Turing's multiple dimensions. A mathematician, Hodges ably explained Turing's intellectual accomplishments with insight, and situated them within their wider historical contexts. He also empathetically explored the centrality of Turing's sexual identity to his thought and life in a persuasive rather than reductive way...

Michael Saler, in The Times Literary Supplement.

Andrew Hodges' 1983 book "Alan Turing: The Enigma," is the indispensable guide to Turing's life and work and one of the finest biographies of a scientific genius ever written.

Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times.

On the face of it, a richly detailed 500-page biography of a mathematical genius and analysis of his ideas, might seem a daunting proposition. But fellow mathematician and author Hodges has acutely clear and often extremely moving insight into the humanity behind the leaping genius that helped to crack the Germans' Enigma codes during World War II and bring about the dawn of the computer age...
Sinclair McKay, Wall Street Journal

Essential in 2009

One of 'Ten essential books on technology', chosen by John Ridpath in the New Statesman, 4 May 2009.

Essential in 2006

Two decades ago, a mathematician named Andrew Hodges published 'Alan Turing: The Enigma', which is one of the finest scientific biographies ever written, and has remained an essential resource for all subsequent accounts of Turing's life.
Jim Holt, in the New Yorker, March 2006

Essential Book for 2002

Listed as one of the essential 50 books of all time in the The Guardian,  1 June 2002.

Comment in 2000

I was fortunate to have available Andrew Hodges's poignant, beautifully written biography of Turing.
Martin Davis, in The Universal Computer
One of the finest scientific biographies I've ever read: authoritative, superbly researched, deeply sympathetic and beautifully told.
Sylvia Nasar, author of A Beautiful Mind.
A captivating, compassionate portrait of a first-rate scientist who gave so much to a world that in the end cruelly rejected him. Perceptive and absorbing, Andrew Hodges's book is scientific biography at its best.
Paul Hoffman, author of The Man Who Loved Only Numbers.

Comment in November 1997

'I wish I'd written,' by Ray Monk

Ray Monk is biographer of Wittgenstein, Bertrand Russell and Robert Oppenheimer. His column in the series 'I wish I'd written' appeared in The Guardian  on 13 November 1997:
There are many things I wish I could write, but realise I never will: poetry, drama, travelogues, situation comedies, to mention but a few. But a book I wish I had written, and one that was a big inspiration for the things I have written, is Alan Turing: the Enigma  by Andrew Hodges. I read it when it first came out in 1983, and immediately formed the ambition to write something similar about Ludwig Wittgenstein.

Hodges's great achievement was to link the work and life of a scientist in a way that had scarcely been attempted before, and in a manner that avoided many of the obvious pitfalls. Hodges, like Turing, is a mathematician, and was thus able to understand and describe Turing's pioneering work in mathematical logic — and his momentously important codebreaking work during the war — at a depth that would have been beyond most biographers. Like Turing also, Hodges is gay, and his description of Turing's prosecution in 1952 for 'gross indecency' and the tragic events leading up to it, is written with great empathy and an entirely appropriate indignation.

It is an almost perfect match of biographer and subject, and, though Hodges is determined, as he puts it, 'to overcome the twentieth-century chasm between scientific thought and human life,' he has the sensitivity to realise that the events of a person's life can never 'explain' the greatness of their thought. Rather than attempt such an explanation, he integrates the work with the life, allowing the reader to see the connections between the two. In doing so, he created not only a great book, but a whole new kind of biographical writing.

Desert Island Book Choice by Margaret Boden

Prof. Margaret Boden, asked by the New Scientist  to choose just one book for its edition of 22 November 1997, wrote:
My choice is the biography Alan Turing...  by Andrew Hodges. This superb biography satisfies many of the intellectual senses. Written by a mathematician, it describes in plain language Turing's work on the foundations of computer science and how he broke the Germans' Enigma code in the Second World War. The subtle depiction of class rivalries, personal relationships, and Turing's tragic end are worthy of a novel. But this was a real person. Hodges describes the man, and the science that fascinated him — which once saved, and still influences, our lives.

Some earlier reviews

This book is a first-rate presentation of the life of a first-rate scientific mind... it is hard to imagine a more thoughtful and warm biography than this one.
Douglas Hofstadter, New York Times Book Review,
later included in Metamagical Themas
It is a first-class contribution to history and an exemplary work of biography.
I. J. Good, Nature
Andrew Hodges's book is of exemplary scholarship and sympathy. Intimate, perceptive and insightful, it's also the most readable biography I've picked up in some time.
Richard Rayner, Time Out
... the first serious synthesis of mathematical and gay liberationist insight... a new standard in writing about gay people in the past. It is the moving story of a man with a brilliant mind, who refused to deny his feelings, in a search to understand — and live — true life.
Hubert Kennedy, The Advocate
Paperback buy of the season
Sunday Times

Arts and Media developments

I am represented by Zeno Agency for questions concerning artistic rights.

Music: the Pet Shop Boys

On 23 July 2014, the Pet Shop Boys (Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe) performed a new musical work, A man from the future, including a narrated text drawn from Alan Turing: the Enigma. This was the final piece in a special PSB Late Night Prom in the BBC 2014 series of Promenade Concerts, at the Royal Albert Hall, London.

See the Pet Shop Boys website for further details.
Interpretation and analysis by Wayne Studer.

Feature Film

The Imitation Game. 'Based on a true story.' September 2014.

Stage and Television Play

Alan Turing: the Enigma  was the basis for the 1986 play Breaking the Code  by Hugh Whitemore, which first played in London and New York, starring Sir Derek Jacobi. It has been frequently performed by professional and amateur companies across the world since then.

In 1996 it appeared as a television film, also featuring Derek Jacobi.

YouTube version

Television documentary

The television film The Strange Life and Death of Dr Turing was made for the BBC Horizon series in December 1991, and first shown on 9 March 1992. The film-maker was Christopher Sykes.

YouTube version.

Art work

Alan Turing: the Enigma  also inspired the late artist and sculptor Sir Eduardo Paolozzi. See my illustrated talk on Paolozzi's Turing prints (2000).

Related publications


Short philosophy text, 1997.

Complete text.

Further articles, book chapters and other publications by me One to Nine

Bibliographic information on earlier editions

The book first appeared in October/November 1983 as

  • UK hardback edition: Alan Turing: the Enigma,  Burnett Books with Hutchinson.

  • US hardback edition: Alan Turing: the Enigma,  Simon & Schuster. Now out of print.
It then appeared in paperback editions:
  • UK Counterpoint paperback edition: Alan Turing: the Enigma of Intelligence, 
    Edition without photographs, the text otherwise the same.

  • US Touchstone paperback edition Alan Turing: the Enigma

  • UK Vintage edition from 1992 to 2012, replaced by the 2012 centenary edition

  • US Walker Books edition from 2000 to 2005

The German translation, Alan Turing, Enigma, was originally published in 1989 by Kammerer & Unverzagt as one of their Computerkultur series.


The original 1983 edition




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