A History of Privacy and Security Via Codes and Ciphers

Cryptography, the art of creating codes and ciphers, and cryptanalysis, the science of breaking codes and ciphers have battled one another for centuries. We will examine the basic concepts and components of effective secure communication schemes and discuss historical events in both war and peace where secret writing played a major role. Examples will include the enigma machine and how it was finally broken, and contemporary encryption systems used today on the internet.

The course will include a primer on some of the ingenious applications of simple mathematics in many of these ciphers, but will not require any mathematical prowess, just an adventurous spirit.
Suggested Reading: The Code Book by Simon Singh
Homework: There will be occasional review exercises and short articles to read.

  • Group Leader(s): GORDEN PRICHETT
  • Days: Tuesdays
  • Times: 10 a.m. - noon
  • Start Date: 10/8/2019
  • End Date: 10/29/2019
  • Sessions: 4
  • Exceptions: none
  • Venue: Prescott House
  • Teaching Style: Lecture and discussion
  • Weekly Preparation: None
  • Biography:

    Gordon Prichett earned a B.A. in mathematics and physics from Williams College, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. His research has been focused on number theory and mathematics education, and he developed a National Science Foundation-funded course in cryptology and coding theory with Sarah Adams of The Olin College of Engineering. He has served as a professor of mathematics and an administrator in various capacities at Hamilton College, Wellesley College, and Babson College.

  • Address: 55 Beacon Street, Boston, MA 02108