The Universal Computer: The Road from Leibniz to Turing

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9781466505193: The Universal Computer: The Road from Leibniz to Turing
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The breathtakingly rapid pace of change in computing makes it easy to overlook the pioneers who began it all. Written by Martin Davis, respected logician and researcher in the theory of computation, The Universal Computer: The Road from Leibniz to Turing explores the fascinating lives, ideas, and discoveries of seven remarkable mathematicians. It tells the stories of the unsung heroes of the computer age – the logicians.

The story begins with Leibniz in the 17th century and then focuses on Boole, Frege, Cantor, Hilbert, and Gödel, before turning to Turing. Turing’s analysis of algorithmic processes led to a single, all-purpose machine that could be programmed to carry out such processes―the computer. Davis describes how this incredible group, with lives as extraordinary as their accomplishments, grappled with logical reasoning and its mechanization. By investigating their achievements and failures, he shows how these pioneers paved the way for modern computing.

Bringing the material up to date, in this revised edition Davis discusses the success of the IBM Watson on Jeopardy, reorganizes the information on incompleteness, and adds information on Konrad Zuse. A distinguished prize-winning logician, Martin Davis has had a career of more than six decades devoted to the important interface between logic and computer science. His expertise, combined with his genuine love of the subject and excellent storytelling, make him the perfect person to tell this story.

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Computers rely on such things as semiconductors, memory chips, and electricity. But they also rely on a hard-won body of scientific knowledge that has enabled the now-ubiquitous devices to perform complex calculations, multitask, and even play a game of solitaire.

Martin Davis, a fluent interpreter of mathematics and philosophy, locates the source of this knowledge in the work of the remarkable German thinker G. W. Leibniz, who, among other accomplishments, was a distinguished jurist, mining engineer, and diplomat but found time to invent a contraption called the "Leibniz wheel," a sort of calculator that could carry out the four basic operations of arithmetic. Leibniz subsequently developed a method of calculation called the calculus raciocinator, an innovation his successor George Boole extended by, in Davis's words, "turning logic into algebra." (Boole emerges as a deeply sympathetic character in Davis's pages, rather than as the dry-as-dust figure of other histories. He explained, Davis reports, that he had turned to mathematics because he had so little money as a student to buy books, and mathematics books provided more value for the money because they took so long to work through.) Davis traces the development of this logic, essential to the advent of "thinking machines," through the workshops and studies of such thinkers as Georg Cantor, Kurt Gödel, and Alan Turing, each of whom puzzled out just a little bit more of the workings of the world--and who, in the bargain, made the present possible. --Gregory McNamee

About the Author:

Martin Davis's other books include Computability and Unsolvability. A professor emeritus at New York University, he is currently a visiting scholar at the University of California-Berkeley.

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Other Popular Editions of the Same Title

9780393047851: The Universal Computer: The Road from Leibniz to Turing

Featured Edition

ISBN 10:  0393047857 ISBN 13:  9780393047851
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company, 2000
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9780965099745: The Universal Computer The Road from Leibniz to Turing

Norton, 2000
Softcover

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