Turing PlaqueAlan Turing, perhaps the greatest computer scientist ever, famous for breaking the Germans’ Enigma code in World War II, wrote two papers on code breaking that have just been released by Britain’s spy center, GCHQ. From BBC News:

Two 70-year-old papers by Alan Turing on the theory of code breaking have been released by the government’s communications headquarters, GCHQ.

It is believed Turing wrote the papers while at Bletchley Park working on breaking German Enigma codes. A GCHQ mathematician said the fact that the contents had been restricted “shows what a tremendous importance it has in the foundations of our subject”.

It comes amid celebrations to mark the centenary of Turing’s birth. The two papers are now available to view at the National Archives at Kew, west London. GCHQ was able to approximately date the papers because in one example Turing had made reference to Hitler’s age.

FriedmanNYPL2_FINALCabinet Magazine has a fascinating and mysterious article on William F. Friedman, perhaps the greatest code-breaker in modern history. Friedman became a hero of World War II by breaking Japan’s PURPLE code and inventing the Army’s best cipher machine. He did it all using the ‘biliteral cipher’, a simple but powerful encoding technique invented in the sixteenth century, which allows for hidden messages to be conveyed by anything from flower petals to musical notes to faces in a photograph:

It is unlikely that Bacon’s cipher system was ever used for the transmission of military secrets, in the seventeenth century or in the twentieth. But for roughly a century from 1850, it set the world of literature on fire.

A passion for puzzles, codes, and conspiracies fueled a widespread suspicion that Shakespeare was not the author of his plays, and professional and amateur scholars of all sorts spent extraordinary amounts of time, energy, and money combing Renaissance texts in search of signatures and other messages that would reveal the true identity of their author. Even after the recent publication of James Shapiro’s comprehensive history of the authorship controversy, Contested Will, it is difficult for us to appreciate the depth of conviction — among writers as diverse and as distinguished as Mark Twain, Walt Whitman, Sigmund Freud, Henry James, Henry Miller, and even Helen Keller — that Shakespeare’s texts contained the secret solution to what was widely considered to be “the Greatest of Literary Problems.”…