Spotlight on…Scientists

Nikola Tesla, by W. Bernard Carlson

Nikola Tesla
by W. Bernard Carlson

Genius is no guarantee of public recognition. In this post we look at the changing fortunes and reputations of three very different scientists: Alan Turing, Nikola Tesla, and Albert Einstein.

With the success of the recent movie, the Imitation Game (based on Andrew Hodges’ acclaimed biography Alan Turing: The Enigma), it’s easy to forget that for decades after his death, Turing’s name was known only to computer scientists. His conviction for homosexual activity in 1950s Britain, his presumed suicide in 1954, and the veil of secrecy drawn over his code-breaking work at Bletchley Park during the Second World War combined to obscure his importance as one of the founders of computer science and artificial intelligence. The gradual change in public attitudes towards homosexuality and the increasing centrality of computers to our daily lives have done much to restore his reputation posthumously. Turing received an official apology in 2009, followed by a royal pardon in 2013.

Despite enjoying celebrity in his own lifetime, Nikola Tesla’s reputation declined rapidly after his death, until he became regarded as an eccentric figure on the fringes of science. His legendary showmanship and the outlandish claims he made late in life of inventing high-tech weaponry have made it easy for critics to dismiss him as little more than a charlatan. Yet he was one of the pioneers of electricity, working first with Edison, then Westinghouse to develop the technology that established electrification in America. W. Bernard Carlson’s Nikola Tesla tells the story of a life that seems drawn from the pages of a novel by Jules Verne or H. G. Wells, of legal battles with Marconi over the development of radio, of fortunes sunk into the construction of grandiose laboratories for high voltage experiments.

By contrast, the reputation of Albert Einstein seems only to have grown in the century since the publication of his General Theory of Relativity. He is perhaps the only scientist to have achieved iconic status in the public mind, his face recognized as the face of genius. Children know the equation e=mc2 even though most adults would struggle to explain its implications. From the publication of the four 1905 papers onwards, Einstein’s place in scientific history has been secure, and his work remains the cornerstone of modern understanding of the nature of the universe. We are proud to announce the publication of a special 100th anniversary edition of Relativity: The Special and the General Theory, and the recent global launch of our open access online archive from the Collected Papers of Albert Einstein, the Digital Einstein Papers.

Princeton University Press’s best-selling books

These are the best-selling books for the past week.

Alan Turing: The Enigma, The Book That Inspired the Film The Imitation Game by Andrew Hodges
Irrational Exuberance: Revised and Expanded Third edition by Robert J. Shiller
The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm edited by Jack Zipes
1177 BC: The Year Civilization Collapsed by Eric H. Cline
Locus of Authority: The Evolution of Faculty Roles in the Governance of Higher Education by William G. Bowen & Eugene M. Tobin
On Bullshit by Harry Frankfurt
Mastering ’Metrics: The Path from Cause to Effect by Joshua D. Angrist & Jörn-Steffen Pischke
Mathematics without Apologies: Portrait of a Problematic Vocation by Michael Harris
The Age of the Vikings by Anders Winroth
How to Solve It: A New Aspect of Mathematical Method by G. Polya

Andrew Hodges honored with Scripter Award


Andrew Hodges, author of ALAN TURING: THE ENIGMA

Andrew Hodges, author of Alan Turing: The Enigma

Congratulations to PUP author Andrew Hodges, who along with The Imitation Game screenwriter Graham Moore, has been awarded the USC Libraries Scripter Award. Hodges’s book, Alan Turing: The Enigma, was used as the basis for the screenplay of the Oscar-nominated film.

Calling bookworms and movie-goers alike — this award has something for all of you. Established in 1988, the USC Libraries Scripter Award is an honor that recognizes the best adaptation of word to film. The award is given to both the author and the screenwriter.

Alan Turing: The Enigma — a New York Times–bestselling biography of the founder of computer science — is the definitive account of an extraordinary mind and life. Capturing both the inner and outer drama of Turing’s life, Andrew Hodges tells how Turing’s revolutionary idea of 1936 — the concept of a universal machine — laid the foundation for the modern computer and how Turing brought the idea to practical realization in 1945 with his electronic design.

The book also tells how this work was directly related to Turing’s leading role in breaking the German Enigma ciphers during World War II, a scientific triumph that was critical to Allied victory in the Atlantic. Turing’s work on this is depicted in The Imitation Game, which stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley.

Benedict Cumberbatch plays Alan Turing in THE IMITATION GAME © 2014 THE WEINSTEIN COMPANY

Benedict Cumberbatch plays Alan Turing in THE IMITATION GAME © 2014 The Weinstein Company

At the same time, Alan Turing: The Enigma is the tragic account of a man who, despite his wartime service, was eventually arrested, stripped of his security clearance, and forced to undergo a humiliating treatment program — all for trying to live honestly in a society that defined homosexuality as a crime. Alan Turing: The Enigma is a gripping story of mathematics, computers, cryptography, and homosexual persecution.

Check out Chapter 1 of Alan Turing: The Enigma for yourself here.

The other four finalists for the Scripter award included:

  • Gillian Flynn, author and screenwriter of Gone Girl
  • Novelist Thomas Pynchon and screenwriter Paul Thomas Anderson for Inherent Vice
  • Jane Hawking, author of Travelling to Infinity: My Life With Stephen, and screenwriter Anthony McCarten for The Theory of Everything
  • Screenwriter Nick Hornby for Wild, adapted from Cheryl Strayed’s memoir Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail


Princeton University Press’s extended best-seller list for the holidays

What are people picking up for the holidays? Our best-seller list provides lots of clues — biography, literature, history, and birds!

Alan Turing: The Enigma, The Book That Inspired the Film The Imitation Game by Andrew Hodges
The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm edited by Jack Zipes
1177 BC: The Year Civilization Collapsed by Eric H. Cline
Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age by W. Bernard Carlson
Lost Animals: Extinction and the Photographic Record by Errol Fuller
The Age of the Vikings Anders Winroth
The Future of the Brain: Essays by the World’s Leading Neuroscientists edited by Gary Marcus & Jeremy Freeman
On Bullshit by Harry Frankfurt
The Mystery of the Invisible Hand: A Henry Spearman Mystery by Marshall Jevons
Mastering ’Metrics: The Path from Cause to Effect by Joshua D. Angrist & Jörn-Steffen Pischke
The New York Nobody Knows: Walking 6,000 Miles in the City by William B. Helmreich
The Amazons: Lives and Legends of Warrior Women across the Ancient World by Adrienne Mayor
QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter Richard P. Feynman
Penguins: The Ultimate Guide by Tui De Roy, Mark Jones & Julie Cornthwaite
The Warbler Guide by Tom Stephenson and Scott Whittle

The Imitation Game official trailer

In THE IMITATION GAME. in theaters November 21, 2014, Benedict Cumberbatch stars as Alan Turing, the genius British mathematician, logician, cryptologist and computer scientist who led the charge to crack the German Enigma Code that helped the Allies win WWII. Turing went on to assist with the development of computers at the University of Manchester after the war, but was prosecuted by the UK government in 1952 for homosexual acts which the country deemed illegal. [(c) The Weinstein Company. Source:]

This major motion picture is inspired by Andrew Hodges’s widely acclaimed biography. We previously published a centenary edition of the biography in 2012, but we are releasing a completely redesigned, movie-edition of the book this November. The new edition will have a reader-friendly interior, feature a film still on the cover, and also include a new preface that brings the story up to date including the royal pardon of Turing in 2014.

Read the book, see the movie, and celebrate an unlikely hero who cracked the Enigma code and inspired modern day computing.

The book that inspired the film:



Alan Turing: The Enigma:
The Book That Inspired the Film The Imitation Game
Andrew Hodges
With a foreword by Douglas Hofstadter and a new preface by the author

Cover reveal — Alan Turing: The Enigma: The Book That Inspired the Film “The Imitation Game”

We can finally reveal the cover for the movie-edition of the book Alan Turing: The Enigma: The Book That Inspired the Film “The Imitation Game”. It depicts Alan Turing (as played by Benedict Cumberbatch), standing in front of the Turing Machine that enabled the Allies to crack the enigma code.

Hodges_AlanTuring movie tie in

Celebrating the genius of Alan Turing

Considered by many to be the father of computer science, Alan Turing is remembered today for his many contributions to the study of computers, artificial intelligence, and code breaking. On December 24, Queen Elizabeth II officially pardoned the late British mathematician and the action recalled attention to his groundbreaking work as well as his personal life. In 1952, Turing was charged with homosexuality, which was considered a criminal act in England at the time. Two years later, he took his own life. Today, mathematicians and computer scientists celebrate Turing’s broad contributions to his field.

For more on the life and work of Turing, check out these resources:


 Princeton University Press recently re-released Andrew Hodges’s biography of Alan Turing: Alan Turing: The Enigma — The Centenary Edition.

It is only a slight exaggeration to say that the British mathematician Alan Turing (1912-1954) saved the Allies from the Nazis, invented the computer and artificial intelligence, and anticipated gay liberation by decades–all before his suicide at age forty-one. This classic biography of the founder of computer science, reissued on the centenary of his birth with a substantial new preface by the author, is the definitive account of an extraordinary mind and life. A gripping story of mathematics, computers, cryptography, and homosexual persecution, Andrew Hodges’s acclaimed book captures both the inner and outer drama of Turing’s life.

Read Chapter One of the book here.


Turing earned his Ph.D. in mathematics from Princeton in 1938. Watch the video below to hear Andrew Appel (chair of the department of computer science at Princeton) discuss Turing’s legacy.

Andrew Appel on Alan Turing’s legacy
(Princeton School of Engineering and Applied Science)


Appel, a Princeton graduate, is the editor of another recent release by Princeton University Press, Alan Turing’s Systems of Logic: The Princeton Thesis.

Though less well known than his other work, Turing’s 1938 Princeton PhD thesis, “Systems of Logic Based on Ordinals,” which includes his notion of an oracle machine, has had a lasting influence on computer science and mathematics. This book presents a facsimile of the original typescript of the thesis along with essays by Andrew Appel and Solomon Feferman that explain its still-unfolding significance.

Preview the book by reading Chapter One.


Appel_AlanTuring's_F12Hodges_Alan Turing_F12