By George Dyson
George Dyson, historian of technology and the author of Darwin Among the Machines, and Project Orion, has spent much of his life on this book, whether he realized it or not. His childhood was spent in the company of some of the greatest scientists of the twentieth century (including his father Freeman Dyson, Edward Teller, and Robert Oppenheimer); the first decade of this century was spent researching the files of other eminent pioneers, particularly John von Neumann. They and others, such as Hans Bethe, Benoit Mandelbrot (his memoir is reviewed on this year’s list as well), and Alan Turing, are key players in the fascinating story that Dyson tells in Turning’s Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe. Dyson tells their personal and professional stories, bringing these little known people—many of whom were immigrants to America—to life in a larger-than-life history that changed the world. These are the people who built some of the earliest computers and the code that would become their DNA; these are the people who would tackle problems ranging from weather prediction to the building of nuclear weapons. Dyson continues to amaze us, and we recommend Turing’s Cathedral to you as history, as “creation story” (not myth), and as appreciation of imagination, creativity, and innovation.