Cryptography

The History and Mathematics of Codes and Code Breaking

Rejewski and Turing

One of the main reasons for the success of the Allied cryptanalysts at Bletchley Park over German cryptographers is the acquisition of the previous work of the Polish on the German Enigma. Polish cryptanalyst, Marian Rejewski, led the polish to first break Enigma in 1932, and kept up with breaking any new security the Germans implemented to strengthen Enigma, until in 1939, when the Germans increased the number of plugboard connections from 5 to 8 to 7 to 10, which made cryptanalysis extremely more difficult. This spurred the Polish to disclose all their work on Enigma to the Allies, especially as the likelihood for another war was growing. Thus, when war broke out and the need to break Enigma became of utmost importance, the Allies had a head start on breaking the codes, as they already had acquired intelligence on Enigma.

Another curious and more indirect reason why the Allies were ultimately successful was because Britain never found out that Alan Turing was a homosexual. Turing was the one of the most important men in the war in that he led the cryptanalyst team at Bletchley Park to victory in breaking Enigma. At the time, homosexuality in Britain was illegal and it was very fortunate that the state never found out about Alan Turing’s case during the war, otherwise Turing probably would never had made it to Bletchley.  Needless to say, if Turing had not been working for the Allies during the war, Enigma may never have been broken and the Germans may have won.

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1 Comment

  1. neuhofc

    I liked that your blog post addressed how both the Polish intelligence and Alan Turing's leadership were key factors in the success of Allied cryptanalysts. You mention how homosexuality in Britain was illegal at the time and therefore could have influenced Turing's involvement in Bletchley Park. Undeniably, Alan Turing's leadership of the cryptanalyst team at Bletchley Park was essential to help break Enigma. Because he was such a crucial aspect of this process, ultimately helping the Allies to win the war through his cryptanalysis, do you think that he would have been banned from Bletchley Park if his sexuality had been known? Or do you think that the Allies, realizing the importance of winning the war, would have overlooked this fact? Although I did not grow up in Britain during this time period and therefore do not know the extent of their views on homosexuality, I find it difficult to believe that those working in the British government would have allowed this aspect of Turing's life to jeopardize their chances of winning the war. With so many lives at stake, I wonder if the British government would have overlooked his sexuality in an attempt to win the war. Also, as many of the cryptanalysts worked so close with Turing during this time, they themselves may have been able to predict his homosexuality. Though his sexuality may have not been publicly known, there is a good chance that those working with Turing were able to tell that he was homosexual and decided to overlook this aspect of his personal life in their attempt to win the war.

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