Welcome to the course blog for Math 1111: Cryptography: The History and Mathematics of Codes and Code Breaking at Vanderbilt University.  I’m the instructor of the course, Derek Bruff.

During the fall 2019 semester, the course meets Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. See below for the course description and goals, and check the Fall 2019 syllabus for more information.

Course Description

Mathematics has long played key roles in both sides of the cryptography “arms race,” helping cryptographers devise ever more complex cipher systems while also providing tools to cryptanalysts for breaking those ciphers.  During World War Two, this battle between code makers and code breakers led to the construction of the first digital computers, which in turn ushered in an information age where cryptography enables both privacy and surveillance, while obscuring who has power over whom. This course will provide an understanding and appreciation of the ways codes and code breaking have affected history, technology, and culture—and continue to do so.

Course Goals

  • To gain proficiency in creating and breaking simple codes and ciphers
  • To understand and appreciate the ways in which codes and code breaking have affected history, technology, and culture
  • To understand and apply important concepts and techniques from abstract mathematics used in classic and modern cryptography
  • To improve skills in communicating in writing technical information and evidence-based arguments

Header image: “Kryptos” Pants Pants, Flickr (CC)