Alan Turing is largely credited with breaking Enigma and it is quite unfortunate that not many sources give as much credit to Marian Rejewski. Rejewski and his team in Poland had cracked Enigma almost a decade before they shared this with the Bletchley Park code-breakers. Turing was the one who later identified the vulnerabilities of Engima and designed the automated systems to speed up the decipherment.
Yesterday, I spent most of the day at the International Spy Museum. I share everyman’s fascination with the spy business and the museum did not disappoint. It has a treasure trove of spy gadgets from all over the world and with some exceptions, does a pretty good job of documenting the exploits of spies throughout history. I especially liked the section on Enigma. Not only is the machine’s working explained for the technically proficient, but there are also some nice interactive applications that allow the lay person to be amazed by its magic.
I didn’t think much about Rejewski until I passed the Polish Embassy on my way to Starbucks. The museum exhibit had focused quite a bit on Turing, but I seemed to recall from reading on of my favorite books — The Code Book — that Poles were involved in cracking Enigma. Looking at the chapter on cracking the Enigma, I found that my memory had served me right for once. Simon Singh does a much better job at giving credit to Rejewski than does the museum. His team did the pain-staking task of developing the techniques that were later used by the Allies.
Unfortunately, that’s how it always is, isn’t it? History is in the eye of those charged with documenting it. Credit to both — Rejewski and Turing.