The Cryptologic History Symposium is a prestigious program showcasing speakers recognized as cryptologic authorities from around the world. The theme and agenda topics for the Symposium attract the interest of scholars, professionals, and the public.
NCF and the NSA Center for Cryptologic History (CCH)
The Foundation and the NSA Center for Cryptologic History (CCH) co-host the biennial Cryptologic History Symposium, and the Foundation provides support to the CCH History Research Program. In 2003, then DIRNSA, General Michael V. Hayden, requested support from the then NCMF for the 2003 Symposium. Since then the Foundation and CCH have teamed up to co-host a unique biennial event that attracts international attention from academia and the Intelligence Community. Learn about the mission and programs of the Center for Cryptologic History.
Next Symposium - 2024
Purpose of the Symposium
Since 1990, the Cryptologic History Symposium has served as an opportunity to present historical scholarship found in unclassified and declassified cryptologic records and engage in discussion about their significance to history. The event is an occasion for historians and those interested in history to gather for reflection and debate on relevant and important topics from the cryptologic past. Regular speakers include historians from CCH, the Intelligence Community, the defense establishment, the military services, scholars from American and international academic institutions, veterans of the cryptologic profession, graduate and undergraduate students, and noted authors. Past symposia have featured scholarship that set out new ways to consider our cryptologic heritage. The conference provides many opportunities to interact with leading historians and other experts. The mix of practitioners, scholars, and interested observers guarantees a lively debate that promotes an enhanced appreciation for past events.
The theme for the 18th Cryptologic History Symposium, held May 11-12, 2022, was “Icons and Innovation.”
In today’s world of high-tech cryptology, artificial intelligence, and cyber security, it is easy to forget that behind every new technological development are people who conceived of, built, and continuously improved upon the tools and technologies available today. The stories of these people provide us with lessons, insights, and inspiration. Many have already become icons in cryptology, but there are others whose stories have yet to be told. Innovation, the introduction of something new or a new idea, method, or device has been the hallmark of cryptology for centuries. The stories of both successful, and unsuccessful, cryptologic innovations can provide context to past events, a better understanding of the present, and a path toward a more secure future.
The 2022 Cryptologic History Symposium was held virtually via Microsoft Teams Live Events. Please click below to see the Final Program with links to videos.
The theme for the 17th biennial Symposium on Cryptologic History on October 17-18, 2019 was "From Discovery to Discourse." Since 1990, the Symposium on Cryptologic History has served as an opportunity to present historical discoveries found in unclassified and declassified Intelligence Community records and engage in scholarly discussion about their significance to cryptologic history. The 2019 Symposium program offered over 20 educational sessions led by over 65 speakers. Topics included cryptologic history related to World War I and II, the Cold War, communications security, cyberspace and technology, international and diplomatic relations, counterintelligence and espionage, declassification and public engagement, and more.
The theme for the 2017 Symposium was "Milestones, Memories, and Momentum." There were many milestones to mark in 2017: the 160th anniversary of the first attempt to span the Atlantic with a telegraph cable, 100 years since both the entry of the United States into World War I and the Russian October Revolution, and 75 years after the World War II battles of Coral Sea and Midway. The Symposium took place in October 2017, just a few months before the 50th anniversary of the Tet Offensive in Vietnam, and during the 25th year after the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War.
The theme for the 2015 Symposium was “A Century of Cryptology.” As we mark the centenary years of World War I (1914–1918), when so many significant advancements occurred in the field of cryptology, we examine the impact cryptologists made throughout the twentieth century, especially during such periods as World War II, the Cold War, the Korean War, the War in Vietnam, and the post-Cold War era. The Symposium included panels that look at the foundations of cryptology before the “Great War.”
The theme for the 2013 Symposium was "Technologic Change and Cryptography: Meeting the Historical Challenge." The keynote address was given by Mr. Chris Inglis, then Deputy Director of NSA. Present at the Symposium were scholars from around the world and the presentations were wide ranging. Examples include: Intelligence Preparation for the Next War, Cipher Systems and Methods, Cryptology as Musical Entertainment, Cryptology in the Ancient World, Bletchley Park Celebrated, and COMINT and the Civil War.