The History and Mathematics of Codes and Code Breaking

The Importance of Logic

A confidence boost from winning the First World War led many Allied countries to lose their motivation for solving Enigma as they lacked the driving factors of fear and hardship that had provoked their initial incentive to win the war. This quickly caused German overconfidence in the security of Enigma, instigated by both the lacking effort of the Allied forces and the strength of the code itself. The Germans’ unshakable faith in their coding system would ultimately lead to their defeat as they mistakenly viewed Enigma as unbreakable.

While many other Allied countries initially gave up in most of their attempts to solve the code, Poland luckily realized the importance of having skilled cryptanalysts. Poland’s decision to hire mathematicians to solve the mechanical cipher of Enigma was one of the most crucial factors in the Allied success. By taking this mathematical approach, the cryptanalysts studied the machine’s operations and were thus able to analyze the scramblers’ and plugboard cablings’ effects.

Though creativity is an essential part of cryptanalysis, the Allied cryptanalysts used mathematics to focus more on the logical aspect of code breaking. By attacking Enigma through the discovery of repetition within the codes, the Allies were able to find patterns that uncovered the plaintext of the German code. In order to break Enigma, having a well-trained team of mathematicians was critical. Solving this highly advanced technology required a similar scientific approach in cracking its message.

Without Poland’s mathematical approach to solving Enigma, the Allied cryptanalysts would arguably never have cracked the code, as logic was the key factor in exposing the messages created by Germany’s cryptographers.


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1 Comment

  1. growm

    I agree with you, but would also mention the importance of diverse thought and German error in providing the Allies with enough data to break the Enigma. As in the book, the Germans made the human error of forming habits, which gave the Allies patterns to follow. Without the logical, mathematical approach, the Allies would not have been able to capitalize on those errors. To me, this then leads to the importance of the diversity of the cryptanalysis team, and how it gave them the tools to crack Enigma. I wonder, just how far could Bletchley Park have gotten had military officials not decided to accept help from people with many different areas of expertise?

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