A Legend in Cryptography

Edgar Allan Poe died October 7, 1849 at the age of 40. Nobody knows exactly how or why but several books have been written about various theories. My particular favorite is Midnight Dreary: The Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe by John Walsh available used on Amazon for a penny.

My little painting of Poe. The website no longer exists.

My little painting of Poe

At least one poem and/or story by Edgar Allan Poe is required reading for most people in K-12 but few know how prolific and brilliant he was–in particular when it comes to languages (he was fluent in multiple even if you don’t count German) and cryptography.

“I CAN BREAK ANY CODE”

Many are familiar with the cryptography included in his short story, “The Gold Bug,” but during his arguably substantial, albeit short-lived, career as a columnist for various New York newspapers and magazines, he wrote about cryptography and, while working for Alexander’s Weekly Messenger, he challenged readers stating he could solve any and all ciphers they submitted.

He not only succeeded but whenever challenged in a particularly snarky way, he employed his typical tomahawk style to respond. On one particular instance he gave his response using the very code designed by the user … oops … reader. Can you tell what a nerd I am? These aren’t the funniest of his columns by a long shot, but definitely reveal his mostly unknown sense of humor.

“NOBODY CAN BREAK MINE”

Presumably bored after six months and no real challenges, Poe submitted two himself (see “Secret Writing Addendum III,” above) under a pseudonym (not the first time and unlikely the last time he’d do such a thing), challenging anyone to break them. Lots of people tried. For a long time.

152 YEARS LATER

The first of the two was solved in 1992 and a $2500 prize was offered to anyone who could solve the second.

8 YEARS LATER

A 27-year-old software engineer finally cracked the second.

Advertisements

About jotascript

Aiming to please. Seeking to impress.
This entry was posted in Cryptography, Role Models and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s