AUTHORDyson, George
TITLETuring's Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe
PUBLISHERPantheon Books
CITYNew York, NY
DATE PUBLISHED2012
ISBN978-0-375-42277-5


This engaging and authoritative history shows the connections between the creation of the earliest stored-program computers and the first thermonuclear weapons. It focuses particularly on the MANIAC machine built at the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) in Princeton, New Jersey, shortly after World War II. The project was underwritten by various parts of the American government, and its major player, John von Neumann, developed the computers that became critical to the United States' nuclear weapons program. Expanding on Alan Turing's concepts, von Neumann built a series of increasingly powerful computers in the 1940s and 1950s. He also worked with Stan Ulam to develop the mathematics and software algorithm known as the "Monte Carlo" method, which predicted that Edward Teller's original design for a hydrogen bomb would not work. Ulam and Teller then proposed a successful design for a thermonuclear weapon. The author describes how the construction of von Neumann's computers was accelerated by the race to build the hydrogen bomb. In addition to providing a partial biography of von Neumann, the book offers insight into the birth of the computing industry, presenting biographical sketches of most of the major players and a picture of the cultural climate within which the scientists and engineers at the IAS worked during an important part of computing history.


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