Science and Society: The Secret History of Secret Codes

With the arrival of the Web, encryption has become a major problem for computer security engineers, as well as an international sport for many cyber hackers. But humans have been communicating in code for as long as they have been writing, as Simon Singh points out in his book, 'The Code Book', published in 1999. At the end of the book, there is a series of ten encoded messages, each from a different phase in the history of cryptography. There was a prize of £10,000 for the first person to crack all ten messages. It took a team of five Swedish researchers a year and a month to solve the challenge. Simon Singh can now reveal the story behind the Cipher Challenge and this is what he will do in his lecture at CERN, explaining how mathematics can be used to crack codes, the role of encryption during World War II and how they both help to guarantee security in today's Information Age.
Simon Singh, who has a PhD in physics, completed his thesis on the UA2 experiment at CERN. In 1991, he joined the BBC Science Department, where he worked as a producer and director on the television programmes 'Tomorrow's World' and 'Horizon'. He is the author of the best-seller ';Fermat's Last Theorem' and 'The Code Book'. His work on cryptography has led to him presenting a television series on the history of codes and codebreaking entitled 'The Science of Secrecy' on the UK's Channel 4.
For further information, visit his Website at

Cracking the Cipher Challenge
Tuesday, 5 February
2.30 p.m.
Main Auditorium
(See détails)