Monday, March 12, 2012

Alan Turing's Library Books

Here's another reason to NOT become famous: eventually, someone will dig up a list of the books you took out of the library, and post the list online.

Here is a list of books taken out by English mathematician/cryptanalyst/computer pioneer Alan Turing (1912 - 1954). Turing was a key player in deciphering the codes of the German Enigma machine used in the Second World War. He was also a homosexual; after the war he was prosecuted for his sexuality by the British government. He had to endure chemical castration and apparently committed suicide. (The above photo is of the Alan Turing Memorial in Manchester, England.)

What's the point of publicizing someone's library list? Can you tell from the list that Turing was gay? That he might have had Asperger's syndrome? That he was a genius?

I can say this: the only thing my library list and Turing's have in common is that we both took out books by Lewis Carroll. Not Alice in Wonderland - I had a copy of that at home. I borrowed Carroll's books on symbolic logic. Unlike Turing, I had no aptitude for this area of study. I thought they were boring and returned them, having read only a few pages.

Since I'm not famous, I don't expect anyone will care what books I borrowed from the library. But if someone does, the books I barely cracked on mathematics and logic will make me look smarter than I was.

Now, the list of my video rentals - that might be interesting!

1 comment:

  1. Alan Turing would have turned 100 on 22 June 2012. Here's a link to an article about him by Maria Popova:

    And don't miss the video at the bottom of a working Turing Machine made out of Legos!