John Gribbin

OK Computer

Turing’s Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe


Allen Lane/The Penguin Press 401pp £25 order from our bookshop

The title of George Dyson’s latest book about the scientists who worked at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton during its glory days is a little misleading. The story is not so much about Alan Turing, the man who came up with the idea of the modern computer, but John von Neumann, who did more than anyone else to make it a reality. No matter: like Dyson’s previous books, this is a glorious insight into how science – in this case, computer science – was done at Princeton in the middle decades of the twentieth century. It is as much a story of the personalities involved as of the discoveries they made, and you do not need any knowledge of computers or mathematics to enjoy the ride.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • Stuck for a gift idea for Father's Day? Subscribe to Literary Review and get a FREE copy of 'An Impeccable Spy' –… ,
    • 'Gone. All gone. The ease, the pleasure, the effortless eloquence' From May 1995, Margaret Forster's withering rev… ,
    • RT : SO excited to tell you about this event! 😆 The amazing digital colourist, will be joining w… ,
    • 'Peters was unashamed and evidently unshamable, an impostor who wholly inhabited his fabrications and who indignant… ,
    • ‘At every waking moment Barbara Hepworth was aware of herself as a woman paving the way in a man’s world’ From the… ,
    • The entertaining Howard Jacobson is in conversation with Prof John Mullan at the Queen’s Park Book Festival on Sund… ,
    • 'A modest and retiring man, Thompson spent his life describing apple varieties and recommending the best – Ribston… ,