A mathematical tour of some of the greatest unsolved ciphers of all time
In 1953, a man was found dead from cyanide poisoning near the Philadelphia airport with a picture of a Nazi aircraft in his wallet. Taped to his abdomen was an enciphered message. In 1912, a book dealer named Wilfrid Voynich came into possession of an illuminated cipher manuscript once belonging to Emperor Rudolf II, who was obsessed with alchemy and the occult. Wartime codebreakers tried—and failed—to unlock the book's secrets, and it remains an enigma to this day. In this lively and entertaining book, Craig Bauer examines these and other vexing ciphers yet to be cracked. Some may reveal the identity of a spy or serial killer, provide the location of buried treasure, or expose a secret society—while others may be elaborate hoaxes.
Unsolved! begins by explaining the basics of cryptology, and then explores the history behind an array of unsolved ciphers. It looks at ancient ciphers, ciphers created by artists and composers, ciphers left by killers and victims, Cold War ciphers, and many others. Some are infamous, like the ciphers in the Zodiac letters, while others were created purely as intellectual challenges by figures such as Nobel Prize–winning physicist Richard P. Feynman. Bauer lays out the evidence surrounding each cipher, describes the efforts of geniuses and eccentrics—in some cases both—to decipher it, and invites readers to try their hand at puzzles that have stymied so many others.
Unsolved! takes readers from the ancient world to the digital age, providing an amazing tour of many of history's greatest unsolved ciphers.
Craig P. Bauer is professor of mathematics at York College of Pennsylvania. He is editor in chief of the journal Cryptologia, has served as a scholar in residence at the NSA's Center for Cryptologic History, and is the author of Secret History: The Story of Cryptology. He lives in York, Pennsylvania.
"Unsolved! spans a huge arc of time and space, from Julius Caesar's simple substitution cipher to composer Edward Elgar's 1897 Dorabella Cipher. . . . The book's combination of convincing logic and . . . speculation is a familiar mix to those of us interested in undeciphered writing."--Andrew Robinson, Nature
"Bauer proves an able and entertaining guide to the world of real-life ciphers, codes, and encryption in his fascinating book Unsolved! . . . Bauer caters to newcomers while keeping things interesting for experienced code breakers as well. . . . Unsolved! is suited to all who enjoy the thrill of the chase."--Peter Dabbene, Foreword Reviews
"A mind-bending joy of a book. Bauer investigates the mysteries of secret writing with a storyteller’s eye and the latest technology, digging into spectacular and macabre tales of murderers, spies, Viking runestones, strange manuscripts, buried gold, and wireless messages from Mars. Unsolved! makes the world seem bigger, weirder, and more wonderful."--Jason Fagone, author of Ingenious: A True Story of Invention, Automotive Daring, and the Race to Revive America
"In this intriguing casebook of hidden clues and secret messages, Craig Bauer is the perfect guide to cracking ciphers."--Adrienne Mayor, author of The Amazons: Lives and Legends of Warrior Women across the Ancient World
"A connection between the cipher language of a fifteenth-century manuscript and the taunting enciphered messages of the twentieth-century Zodiac Killer seems unlikely. Yet in this well-chosen survey of unsolved cryptographic problems, we learn how these and a host of other cipher conundrums are related. Illuminating examples, clear technical explanations, and a brisk writing style combine to make Unsolved! an informative and rewarding read."--Glen Miranker, former Apple chief technology officer (hardware)
Table of Contents:
1 A King’s Quest 1
2 Ancient Ciphers 89
3 Dorabella 127
4 Zodiac 155
5 More Killer Ciphers 195
6 From the Victims 245
7 From Beyond the Grave? 316
8 A Challenge Cipher 347
9 More Challenge Ciphers 372
10 Long Ciphers 470
11 ET and RSA 495
References and Further Reading 557
Photo and Illustration Credits 599