Turing's Vision: The Birth of Computer Science

MIT Press
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Turing's fascinating and remarkable theory, which now forms the basis of computer science, explained for the general reader.

In 1936, when he was just twenty-four years old, Alan Turing wrote a remarkable paper in which he outlined the theory of computation, laying out the ideas that underlie all modern computers. This groundbreaking and powerful theory now forms the basis of computer science. In Turing's Vision, Chris Bernhardt explains the theory, Turing's most important contribution, for the general reader. Bernhardt argues that the strength of Turing's theory is its simplicity, and that, explained in a straightforward manner, it is eminently understandable by the nonspecialist. As Marvin Minsky writes, “The sheer simplicity of the theory's foundation and extraordinary short path from this foundation to its logical and surprising conclusions give the theory a mathematical beauty that alone guarantees it a permanent place in computer theory.” Bernhardt begins with the foundation and systematically builds to the surprising conclusions. He also views Turing's theory in the context of mathematical history, other views of computation (including those of Alonzo Church), Turing's later work, and the birth of the modern computer.

In the paper, “On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem,” Turing thinks carefully about how humans perform computation, breaking it down into a sequence of steps, and then constructs theoretical machines capable of performing each step. Turing wanted to show that there were problems that were beyond any computer's ability to solve; in particular, he wanted to find a decision problem that he could prove was undecidable. To explain Turing's ideas, Bernhardt examines three well-known decision problems to explore the concept of undecidability; investigates theoretical computing machines, including Turing machines; explains universal machines; and proves that certain problems are undecidable, including Turing's problem concerning computable numbers.

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About the author

Chris Bernhardt is Professor of Mathematics at Fairfield University and the author of Turing's Vision: The Birth of Computer Science (MIT Press).

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Additional Information

Publisher
MIT Press
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Published on
May 13, 2016
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Pages
208
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ISBN
9780262333818
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Language
English
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Genres
Computers / Computer Science
Computers / General
Computers / History
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A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

The official book behind the Academy Award-winning film The Imitation Game, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley

It is only a slight exaggeration to say that the British mathematician Alan Turing (1912-1954) saved the Allies from the Nazis, invented the computer and artificial intelligence, and anticipated gay liberation by decades--all before his suicide at age forty-one. This New York Times–bestselling biography of the founder of computer science, with a new preface by the author that addresses Turing's royal pardon in 2013, is the definitive account of an extraordinary mind and life.


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