Mathematical Digest


Short Summaries of Articles about Mathematics
in the Popular Press

"Annals of Cryptology": Review of The Reader of Gentleman's Mail: HerbertO. Yardley and the Birth of American Codebreaking by David Kahn. Reviewed by Cipher A. Deavours. American Scientist,July/August 2004, page 387.

Kahn tells the fascinating story of Herbert Yardley, chief of the StateDepartment's Cipher Bureau in the early days of codebreaking. The bookcontains new details of Yardley's interactions with the U. S. Army's leadingcryptanalyst, William Friedman, as well as a discussion of Yardley'scontroversial 1931 memoir, The American Black Chamber. Kahn shows hissubject in all of his humanity: although a "natural and inspired" cryptanalyst,Yardley did not play the games that would have given him greater influencewithin government circles. Yet Yardley's contribution to the field ofcryptanalysis is undeniable and Deavours acknowledges the skill Kahn hasbrought to bear in telling this story.

--- Claudia Clark