Alan Turing (Real Lives) by Jim Eldridge

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Alan Turing (Real Lives) by Jim Eldridge

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Interesting and effective biography of the famous mathematician aimed at those of school age. Accessible but with an occasionally challenging vocabulary, it will appeal to a wide range of kids.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 96 Date: November 2013
Publisher: A&C Black
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 1472900103

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Alan Turing was one of Britain's greatest thinkers of the last century. He did pioneering work on computing and artificial intelligence. He was also a hero of World War II, working in the famous code-breaking community at Bletchley Park, cracking German naval codes used to lethal effect organising U-boat attacks. Turing was the man who beat the Enigma machine.

In this short but enlightening biography, Jim Eldridge follows Turing from his schooldays, through his time as an undergraduate at Cambridge and his wartime work, right up until his mysterious death from eating an apple laced with cyanide. If you didn't know it was true, you wouldn't believe it. Eldridge doesn't duck any of the difficult issues surrounding Turing, in particular his homosexuality and the book provides an interesting discussion on the bearing it may have had on his life.

It might be short but this book is very well-written. It's probably intended mostly for classrooms and school libraries and I can imagine will be very useful for use by teachers in cross-curricular activities, covering as it does, history, maths and computing but also personal and social issues of inclusion and prejudice.

Also, however, if you are the parent of a reluctant reader or if you are one of those reluctant readers who are constantly being nagged at home and school to read more, then you should look at the books in the Real Lives series generally and in particular this one about Turing. They're accessible but not babyish. You might even need to look up the meanings of some words. They might be short but they are comprehensive and they don't duck controversial aspects of their subjects' lives.

In particular, who wouldn't want to find out about Alan Turing? He was a man of startling talent - a father of modern computing and the figure credited with shortening World War II by years, thanks to his work on the Enigma code. And he was no stranger to controversy - an awkward man who found it difficult to make friends, was gay and made a criminal for it, was punished by chemical castration - can you believe our courts were doing this sort of thing so recently? - and died in mysterious circumstances. That is a - true! - story worth reading, right?

In short, this book - and all the others in the Real Lives series - comes recommended by us.

You might also enjoy Fantastic Mr Dahl by Michael Rosen - who wouldn't want to read about Britain's most treasured children's author?

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Buy Alan Turing (Real Lives) by Jim Eldridge at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Alan Turing (Real Lives) by Jim Eldridge at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Alan Turing (Real Lives) by Jim Eldridge at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Alan Turing (Real Lives) by Jim Eldridge at


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