Foreword by Giovanni Bonello
Ancient scripts such as Egyptian hieroglyphics, Palmyran and Phoenician have been a challenge for decoders for hundreds of years.
Their decryption entailed long intuitive studies during the 18th and 19th centuries by gifted scholars, such as Athanasius Kircher SJ, Abbé Jean-Jacques Barthélemy, Jean-Franςois Champollion, Ippolito Rosellini and others. This book traces their story.
Several countries sent secret messages both during peacetime and wartime. The practice of cryptography reaches as far back at least as the Egyptian pharaohs and their scribes around 3,000 BC. In 15th century AD Italy, Leon Battista Alberti, Giambattista della Porta, and later Giovanni Soro of Venice delved into its practice, in competition with the Frenchmen Blaise de Vigenère, and later with Franςois Viète and Antoine Rosssignol.
World War I caused Hugo Alexander Koch in Holland to devise a commercial machine which was known as Enigma, whose patents were later sold to Arthur Scherbius in Berlin, who developed it further. In 1925-26 the German Navy first acquired its use. But so did several western countries including Poland, which set about to decrypt its messages.
In World War II these reached France and Britain. Decoding teams were set up in these countries, which eventually managed to read German encoded messages. It is claimed that this decoding shortened World War II by two years and saved countless lives.