Cryptologic Bytes

"On This Date in History" Calendar

1737: Birthday of James Lovell

Sunday, October 31, 2021

31 October 1737: Birth date of James Lovell, Revolutionary War cryptographer. Image is from the NSA CCH document, "Masked Dispatches." See below for a link to the full pdf.

Excerpted from the NSA article: "The American Revolution's One-Man National Security Agency"

James Lovell was the American Revolution's one-man National Security Agency, for he was the one and only cryptologic expert Congress had, and, it is claimed, he managed to decipher nearly all, if not all, of the British code messages obtained in one way or another by the Americans. Of course, the primary way in which enemy messages could be obtained in those days was to capture couriers, knock them out or knock them off, and take the messages from them. This was very rough stuff, compared to getting the material by radio intercept, as we do nowadays.

This one-man NSA was James Lovell, and besides being a self-trained cryptologist, he was also a member of the Continental Congress. With his cipher designs, Lovell became America's first cryptographic tutor.

Learn more about James Lovell and see examples of his cipher designs and letters in Chapter 2 of the NSA publication, "Masked Dispatches: Cryptograms and Cryptology in American History, 1775-1900." See below for link.

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