THE MAN WHO BROKE PURPLE by Ronald Clark
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THE MAN WHO BROKE PURPLE

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Subtitle: A Life of the World's Greatest Cryptographer, Colonel William F. Friedman. Friedman, co-author with his wife Elizebeth (with an ""e"") of The Shakespearean Ciphers Examined (1957), was a cryptographer with literary leanings but was most highly regarded by his peers as the man who broke Japan's military cipher, called Purple, which was produced by a maddeningly ingenious enciphering machine. As a young Rumanian-Jewish emigrant to the States, he was torn between the new science of genetics and the world of cryptography into which Poe's ""The Gold Bug"" had introduced him. But a megalomillionaire hired him to work on the Shakespeare-Bacon cipher controversy, and this in turn led to his becoming the Army's leading expert on code during WW I and the US grand master until his death in 1969. Aside from breaking many ""unbreakable"" codes, and producing large tomes that are now basic works in the field, he also enjoyed ""decoding"" Gertrude Stein, Joyce's Finnegan's Wake, the Mayan hieroglyphs, and other esoterica. Despite every accomplishment, he was driven by neurotic insecurities (leading to hospitalizations and electroshock therapy) and by shame about the nature of military intelligence itself. Great fog surrounds his foreknowledge of the Pearl Harbor attack, and--in general--Japan's peace feelers just before the A-bomb was dropped. An attractive man meticulously limned by the biographer of Einstein, the Huxleys, and Bertrand Russell.

Pub Date: Sept. 20th, 1977
Publisher: Little, Brown