Enigma Machine

Did a Bletchley Park Code-breaker Help Create Bitcoin?

Craig Stephen Wright

Craig Stephen Wright

In a recent interview with Fred Schebesta, Craig Wright alleged that the late British mathematician David Rees played a role in the creation of Bitcoin.

As a mathematician, Rees began his career as an associate of Alan Turing at Hut 6 in Bletchley Park after 1939, where he was one of 450 code-breakers who contributed to Turing’s successful effort to break the German Enigma Code. After Bletchley Park, Rees’ career lasted nearly seven decades.  As a professor at the University of Exeter, he worked on the development of public key cryptography and made many other contributions to the fields of mathematics and computing.

Bletchley Park

Bletchley Park Mansion

Bletchley Park Mansion

Bletchley Park is a nineteenth century mansion located in Buckinghamshire, England, which was used to house the Government Code and Cipher School whose staff cracked the codes used by the Axis powers in the second World War.  Turing was a leading cryptographer at the school during the war, and is given the primary credit for breaking the Enigma Cipher.  Turing is considered by many to be the father of the modern fields of theoretical computer science and artificial intelligence.  Rees worked with Wright’s grandfather at Bletchley Park during the war.

Due to the large number of staff, temporary offices called “huts” were assembled on the grounds.  Each hut housed a code-breaking team of about 450 people. Hut 6 and Hut 8 later became famous for their work in breaking the Enigma Cipher.

The Enigma Cipher

Enigma Machine

Enigma Machine

Germany had developed ciphers called Enigma Machines which were used by military radio and telegraph operators to coordinate the movements and supply lines of the German forces.  The code breaking work conducted at Bletchley Park was classified as “Ultra Secret.”  Once they had broken the Enigma Cipher the code-breakers were employed full time decrypting and translating intercepted German military communications.

By enabling the Allies to read German communications in near real time, the intelligence produced at Bletchley Park was crucial to the success of the Allied war effort. It is estimated by some that  that it reduced the length of the war by up to two years.

Professor-David-Rees

Professor-David-Rees

Family Connection

According to Wright, he had been introduced to Rees by his grandfather.  Rees later advised Wright on the theoretical mathematics that undergird the mining algorithm of Bitcoin.  Rees died at the age of 94 in 2013, five years after the Bitcoin Whitepaper was published.

Wright’s grandfather studied wireless communications technology under the Italian nobleman, Guglielmo Marconi, who was the inventor of the radio.  Wright said his grandfather was later assigned to Bletchley Park due to his expert knowledge of radio communications.

Wright’s account suggests that there is a direct link between Bitcoin and the founders of the fields of computer science, cryptography, and artificial intelligence.

In the interview Wright also discussed the contributions of Dave Kleimann and Hal Finney to the creation of Bitcoin.

 

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