Cryptologic Bytes

"On This Date in History" Calendar

1921: William Friedman joined War Department

Monday, July 1, 2024

1 July 1921: William Friedman joined the War Department when the Army's Chief Signal Officer offered Friedman a trial six-month government contract as a civilian cryptographer. This began William Friedman's 34-year career as an Army employee. By the end of 1921 he was named the Cryptanalyst of the Signal Service, accepting a salary of $4,500 per year. His duties ranged from teaching a course on military codes and ciphers, to writing the Army's first training manual on the topic, called "Elements of Cryptanalysis." Friedman published numerous other works throughout the 1920s.

Learn much more about William Friedman by searching the archives of Friedman documents released by NSA in April 2015. See the link at the end of this page for information. You can also learn more about William Friedman by visiting the new (April 2015) William Friedman: A Life in Cryptology Exhibit at the National Cryptologic Museum. More info in the link below.

(Excerpt from William Friedman's Cryptologic Hall of Honor Page via the NSA site): After receiving a B.S. and doing some graduate work in genetics at Cornell University, William Friedman was hired by Riverbank Laboratories, what would today be termed a "think tank," outside Chicago. There he became interested in the study of codes and ciphers, thanks to his concurrent interest in Elizebeth Smith, who was doing cryptanalytic research at Riverbank. Friedman left Riverbank to become a cryptologic officer during World War I, the beginning of a distinguished career in government service.

Friedman's contributions thereafter are well known-- prolific author, teacher, and practitioner of cryptology. Perhaps his greatest achievements were introducing mathematical and scientific methods into cryptology and producing training materials used by several generations of pupils. His work affected for the better both signals intelligence and information systems security, and much of what is done today at NSA may be traced to William Friedman's pioneering efforts.


Check out the Cryptologic Bytes Archives for a wide variety of articles on all topics related to cryptology, codes and ciphers, related publications, Museums, and more.