NSA mathematician to speak on the WWII Enigma

Linfield entranceDavid Perry, a cryptologic mathematician at the National Security Agency, will present a pair of talks about WWII-era Enigma code-writing machines in November at Linfield College.

Perry will present the first talk, “Coming of Enigma,” on Wednesday, Nov. 9, at 4:30 p.m., and the second, “Cracking of Enigma,” on Thursday, Nov. 10, at 4:30 p.m. Both will be held in 201 Riley Hall. Both events will be streamed and archived on the Linfield Live Facebook page.

The Enigma, a code-writing machine used by the Germans before and during World War II, was initially believed to be unbreakable by analysts. In his first talk, Perry will address how the machine worked and why it was thought to be so secure. He will also discuss the history of code making and breaking, which informed the machine’s design.

In his second talk, Perry will discuss how the Polish cipher bureau eventually cracked the “uncrackable” Enigma by employing mathematics in a way that had no precedent at the time. Shortly after, cryptology moved into the purview of mathematicians, which remains true today.

Perry received degrees at the University of Wisconsin at Madison and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He taught at Ripon College for two years before joining the National Security Agency, and taught at the Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Talented Youth program for 20 summers, where he was co-architect of their cryptology classes. He is working on the second novel of a trilogy, a work of historical fantasy purporting to tell the true story of David and Goliath.

Both talks are free, open to the public and sponsored by the Linfield Program for Liberal Arts and Civic Engagement and the Linfield Department of Mathematics. For more information, contact Christian Millichap at 503-883-2428 or cmillich@linfield.edu.