BOOK REVIEW: Turing's Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe by George Dyson | Science News

ADVERTISEMENT

REAL SCIENCE. REAL NEWS.

Help us keep you informed.

Support Science News.


Reviews & Previews

BOOK REVIEW: Turing's Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe by George Dyson

Review by Tom Siegfried

By
11:42am, August 24, 2012

Computers are mathematically pretty powerful, considering the only numbers they use are 0 and 1. That power, of course, stems from binary digital logic, dimly foreseen by Francis Bacon four centuries ago and articulated more clearly by Leibniz several decades later. But the modern computer’s ability to exploit that power grew from the mathematical imagination of Alan Turing (SN: 6/30/12, p. 26) in work appearing a few years before World War II.

Dyson’s book dives deeply into the postwar development of Turing’s ideas under the direction of John von Neumann at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J. The institute’s computer, MANIAC, was not the first all-purpose digital electronic computer (that was ENIAC, at the University of Pennsylvania), but in Dyson’s telling it was the most influential. MANIAC combined binary numbers representing m

This article is only available to Science News subscribers. Already a subscriber? Log in now. Or subscribe today for full access.

Get Science News headlines by e-mail.

More from Science News

From the Nature Index Paid Content