How Alan Turing influenced World War Two and the LGBT community – a book review

The book I have chosen to read for this article review is Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges because it is about my favourite mathematician and he was my inspiration for studying mathematics, albeit having a tragic ending. This biography about Alan Turing spans his whole life and delves into his past without leaving any detail behind. His work included inventing a machine such that it could decipher code written by the Nazi’s in World War Two, which ultimately contributed to the Allied victory of Europe and WWII.

Although I rather enjoyed the biography, I felt that the first few pages about his family history was a bit tedious and were rather pointless, but it was interesting nonetheless. As the book progresses, events start to get more intriguing as he goes through sixth form, university and thereafter because he starts to develop friendships and expresses himself a bit more. However, by the end of the book, I was left thinking about how lucky we are to be in a society where people like Alan Turing are not persecuted due to their sexuality and that people with depression are treated and not stigmatised. I would recommend this book as it gauges interests from many areas such as war history, mathematical history and LGBT history.

There are many positive aspects of this book in the way that the portrayal of Alan Turing’s life is written well, and the author uses emotive language to feel connected to his life and to empathise with his struggles. Also, I felt that it was impartial and unbiased because the author backed up the evidence with excerpts from letters and historical photographs. Conversely, you could argue that some parts were biased as the biography encroaches on difficult subjects, an example being homosexuality or mental illness, which may be more difficult to be objective. Furthermore, I felt that the author’s objectives were achieved in a way that the book educates the reader how a simple action can lead to life-changing consequences (both positive and negative) and this butterfly effect is reminiscent of everyday life in the fact that a simple action can lead to unforeseen events a hundred or even a thousand years from now. The fact that Alan Turing’s inventions and theories lead to the advancements in computing technology 50 years later is a major example of this happening and is still taking to affect today. Even Alan Turing’s contributions to the war effort changed the world both politically and socially. This is where I think the book shows its true power and can inspire individuals to make a difference, no matter how small or slow it is at the time.

After reading this book, I questioned whether I would recommend this book to others and the answer is ‘yes, I would’ because of its parallels to today’s society that people should persevere instead of giving up at the first hurdle, that people should not expect instant gratification when it comes to carrying out actions that may take years to be recognised and that we are all vulnerable to abnormalities in mental health. It also serves as an inspiration to many people on the LGBT spectrum that although your life may be bad at the moment, it could have easily have been worse if you lived 60 years ago.

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