Alan Turing’s Reading List

from Brain Pickings

“You are a mashup of what you let into your life,” it’s been said. Since creativity is combinatorial, the architecture of mind and character is deeply influenced by the intellectual stimulation we choose to engage with — including the books we read. There is hardly anything more fascinating than the private intellectual diet of genius — like this recently uncovered list of books computing pioneer and early codehacker Alan Turing borrowed from his school library. Though heavy on the sciences, the selection features some wonderful wildcards that bespeak the cross-disciplinary curiosity fundamental to true innovation. A few personal favorites follow.

More here.

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3 Responses to Alan Turing’s Reading List

  1. SamiyahK November 6, 2015 at 9:34 pm #

    The movie The Imitation Game, is based on the story of Alan Turing. According to the movie he was recruited as a code breaker for a secret government program during World War II. Turing and his colleagues were charged with the task of breaking the the seemingly impossible Nazi code, Enigma. When the succeeded, they saved millions of lies that could have been lost during the war.

    I found it interesting that a book based on Albert Einstein’s lectures was part of Turing’s reading list. Einstein was living in Princeton during World War II and could be considered one of Turing’s contemporaries. This reveals that even a genius such as Turing, realized that he could learn from others of his time.

  2. Chris Gattuso November 7, 2015 at 2:05 pm #

    Alan Turing was a brilliant scientist who is most famously know for breaking the Enigma code and is regarded by many to be the father of modern computing. This list of books that he took out from his school’s library holds some interesting titles. The list includes Sidelights on Relativity a book based on lectures of Albert Einstein. This book stood out to me because as others have said in previous comments Einstein could have been considered a competition in breaking the enigma code. It seems that Alan Turing realized the importance of knowing your competitors.

    It is also interesting to see Through the Looking Glass on the list. The first reason that particular title was interesting was because it is essentially a fictional novel and all the other book seemed to have to do with some field of science. The second reason why that book is interesting is because in recent years the Cheshire Cat has gone on to inspire quantum physics examples and explanations such as the “Quantum Cheshire Cat”. Quantum physics is the field that much of the work in super computing is being based on. Alan Turing being an individual of great influence on modern computing it makes me wonder if he was still alive would he have had a hand in the quantum computing research.

    Zyga, Lisa. “Quantum Cheshire Cat Effect May Be Explained by Standard
    Quantum Mechanics.” Quantum Cheshire Cat Effect May Be Explained by
    Standard Quantum Mechanics. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Nov. 2015.

  3. Wendy Chen April 8, 2016 at 8:50 pm #

    I enjoy reading but I don’t often pick up books anymore because I often feel sleepy whenever I have to read an actual book. When I begin reading, I am enthusiastic; however, this enthusiasm usually fades within the next thirty minutes of holding the book and reading the words of it. I think part of this feeling of stagnancy is a result of how it is so easy to access information in a rapid and “efficient” manner where our brains now work at a faster pace because we are constantly jumping from one source of information to another. However, with books, we are required to hold the hard copy and focus entirely on that one book for some period of time. Since we are used to distractions and everything around us moving so quickly, we are in the habit of multitasking that to sit down and read a book even for entertainment is too slow and quiet for many of us. In that case, I think I’ll always like the concept of reading where we wind down and indulge in a good read to expand our intellectual depths; however, when it comes time to read, the concept remains but the will to read disappears. I like the idea of something slow and quiet, but in the end, I usually would instead opt out for a movie or show rather than to read a book. It has often been the case that I visit a library, pick out a good list of books I want to read, but end up returning the books when they are due, having read only a few chapters of one out of the five books I chose. I’ll always want to read, but when it comes to actually reading, I never make it past the first few chapters.
    I really like the quote “you are a mashup of what you let into your life” because it is true that the type of book you read contributes to your personality. Maria Popova says that the architecture of mind and character is deeply influenced by the intellectual stimulation we choose to engage with and since reading is one of the most basic forms of intellectual stimulation, it is only obvious that what we read will affect further stimuli of our minds. Many of the books in Alan Turing’s reading list were of science material, but there are a few among the list that have sparked my interest. In the first book, “Sidelights on Relativity,” the second part of “Geometry and Experience” appealed to me because it is on the concept of infinity through Euclidean geometry. I have never really grasped the concept of infinity and I am also not good at geometry, but this part was appealing to me because if I were to read, I could possibly kill two birds with one stone in understanding infinity and somewhat more of geometry, especially through its relation to one another. I think another good read would be “The Universe Around Us” where the book is about cosmogony, evolution, and the general structure of the universe. I have always been interested in astrological science where the later editions talk about the Milky Way, sun, stars, and other mystics of our universe. If I were to read any of the books in Alan Turing’s list, I think I would enjoy them, but the effort to start and finish a book will be a task for me in itself.

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