Mathematican of the Month - August: Martin Davis
CRC Press is pleased to share with you our author Q&A session with Martin Davis, author of The Universal Computer: The Road from Leibniz to Turing, Third Edition.
A distinguished prize-winning logician, Martin Davis has had a long career of more than six decades devoted to the important interface between logic and computer science. Born in New York City, he received his Ph.D. from Princeton University in 1950. He spent thirty years at New York University, where he helped found the computer science department. His expertise, combined with his genuine love of the subject and excellent storytelling, make him the perfect person to tell this story. Professor Davis is currently Professor Emeritus at New York University and now lives with his wife of 66 years in Berkeley, California.
The Universal Computer : The Road from Leibniz to Turing, Third Edition, 3rd Edition
Author(s): Martin Davis
Cat. #: K39438
Publication Date: February 19, 2018
Q&A with Martin Davis
Congratulations on the publication of your book, The Universal Computer: The Road from Leibniz to Turing, Third Edition and being named Mathematician of the Month! What do you want your audience to take away from the book? It is my hope that my readers will have a better sense of what goes on inside their computer whether it is a desktop, a laptop, a tablet, or a phone. I hope they will not only enjoy the stories I tell about the lives and work of the gifted thinkers who helped develop the logical concepts on which computers are based, but also come to understand some of these concepts.
What inspired you to write this book?
I had come to realize the extent to which Alan Turing’s ideas played a pivotal role in the development of modern computers before this had been acknowledged by most scholars writing about the history of computers. I wanted to bring this understanding to the attention of the wider public. For this reason, I have tried to write about technical mathematical ideas in such a way that even those with little mathematical education could readily understand them.
The previous edition came out in 2011, what are the main differences between that edition and the new third edition?
The section on artificial intelligence is brought up to date with a discussion of so called “deep learning’’ and its use in enabling a computer to defeat master players of the ancient Chinese game of Go. There is information about Georg Cantor, one of the seven thinkers whose stories are told in the book, that contradicts what a reputed expert has written. There is a discussion of some of the research being carried out in the US, in Princeton, complementary to what Turing was doing at the same time in Cambridge, England.
What audience did you have in mind whilst writing you book?
I like to think that the fascinating story I tell would be interesting to everybody who enjoys thinking.
What makes your book stand out from its competitors?
There are no competitors.
What did you enjoy about writing the book?
I have always enjoyed explaining things in a way that makes them easy to understand.
What is your academic background?
My undergraduate education was at City College in New York. My doctoral studies were at Princeton University.
What is innovative about your research?
I was one of the first to work on the foundations of computer science.
Who has influenced you the most?
Professor E.L. Post at City College.
What do you think are your most significant research accomplishments?
The work I did in connection with the tenth problem in a famous list proposed by David Hilbert (one of the seven thinkers whose stories are told in this book) in 1900.
What do you feel has been a highlight for you, in your career?
The solution of Hilbert’s 10th Problem.
What is the last book you read (non-academic)?
Pamela Druckerman, There Are No Grown-ups