Turing (A Novel about Computation)

Turing (A Novel about Computation)

By Christos H. Papadimitriou

The world of computation according to Turing, an interactive tutoring program, as told to star-crossed lovers: a novel.





The world of computation according to Turing, an interactive tutoring program, as told to star-crossed lovers: a novel.

Our hero is Turing, an interactive tutoring program and namesake (or virtual emanation?) of Alan Turing, World War II code breaker and father of computer science. In this unusual novel, Turing's idiosyncratic version of intellectual history from a computational point of view unfolds in tandem with the story of a love affair involving Ethel, a successful computer executive, Alexandros, a melancholy archaeologist, and Ian, a charismatic hacker. After Ethel (who shares her first name with Alan Turing's mother) abandons Alexandros following a sundrenched idyll on Corfu, Turing appears on Alexandros's computer screen to unfurl a tutorial on the history of ideas. He begins with the philosopher-mathematicians of ancient Greece—"discourse, dialogue, argument, proof... can only thrive in an egalitarian society"—and the Arab scholar in ninth-century Baghdad who invented algorithms; he moves on to many other topics, including cryptography and artificial intelligence, even economics and developmental biology. (These lessons are later critiqued amusingly and developed further in postings by a fictional newsgroup in the book's afterword.) As Turing's lectures progress, the lives of Alexandros, Ethel, and Ian converge in dramatic fashion, and the story takes us from Corfu to Hong Kong, from Athens to San Francisco—and of course to the Internet, the disruptive technological and social force that emerges as the main locale and protagonist of the novel.

Alternately pedagogical and romantic, Turing (A Novel about Computation) should appeal both to students and professionals who want a clear and entertaining account of the development of computation and to the general reader who enjoys novels of ideas.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262162180 296 pp. | 5.375 in x 8 in 4 illus.


$19.95 T ISBN: 9780262661911 296 pp. | 5.375 in x 8 in 4 illus.


  • ...inventively interwoven with a romance and intellectual mystery.

    Sally Abbott

    San Francisco Chronicle

  • What's most delightful about Turing is the charmed glow that Papadimitriou's prose sheds all around.

    George Scialabba

    Boston Sunday Globe


  • Combining storytelling and brilliant exposition in the Enlightenment tradition, Christos Papadimitriou's Turing is at once a moving postmodern love story and one of the best introductions to theoretical computer science available, an enchanting offer to the intelligent reader.

    Apostolos Doxiadis

    author of Uncle Petros and Goldbach's Conjecture

  • This is a delightful book in which science and fiction meet literature and politics. It makes you feel and understand what creativitiy means and how it relates to the culture of society. And it is great fun!

    Manuel Castells

    Wallis Annenberg Professor of Communication Technology & Society, University of Southern California, Author of The Internet Galaxy

  • Turing sets new standards for the popular exposition of computer science. It is also a very funny book.

    Donald E. Knuth

    Professor Emeritus of the Art of Computer Programming, Stanford University