We use cookies to provide essential features and services. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies .


COVID-19 Response at Fishpond

Read what we're doing...

Battle of Wits


Product Description
Product Details

About the Author

Stephen Budiansky received a master's degree in applied mathematics from Harvard University and worked on classified military studies as a Congressional Fellow. He is a correspondent for The Atlantic, and his articles have also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, and U.S. News & World Report. He lives in Leesburg, Virginia.


In February of 1926, German codes, long intercepted and analyzed by Polish cryptanalysts, abruptly became impenetrable. As BudianskyDan Atlantic Monthly correspondent, applied math degree-holder and former congressional fellowDnotes in this penetrating, edgy study, the wary Poles suspected that these new, seemingly unbreakable codes had been generated by a machine. How the Allies' mathematicians and cryptanalysts later deciphered nearly every top-level code produced by that machine, called EnigmaDwhose internal rotors could be wired in 10 to the 80th power (1 followed by 80 zeroes) waysDand by other machines in Axis use is a story already covered by David Kahn's classic The Codebreakers and many other books. Budiansky's bibliography reflects a reliance on those sources, deploying them along with a wealth of archival material; unlike Codebreakers, this book foregrounds the role of cryptanalysis in fighting the war, rather than treating the war as background to cryptanalysis. Readers of a technical bent will be particularly drawn to the meticulous explanations and diagrams depicting trial-and-error code breaking at work. Doling out a consistent measure of beautifully turned observations ("No matter how elaborate a scheme was used to scramble and disguise the original text, its ghost always shone through"), Budiansky is a master at interweaving the science of code breaking within its cultural and historical contexts. He depicts with clarity how the World War II-era code breakers struggled to halt German aggression at a time when the role of signals intelligence in heightening the impact of force was little understood, and delineates the remarkable achievement of those who recognized that the minutiae of enemy communications are well worth knowing. This book gives a fascinating impression of just how crucial these efforts were. (Oct.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

Simon Singh Nature The story of cryptography in the Second World War is one of the great scientific tales of the twentieth century. Budiansky has succeeded in telling it with enthusiasm and insight, delivering a book with style and substance.
Vernon Loeb The Washington Post An exuberant work in which Budiansky deftly demonstrates his prowess as mathematician, military historian, and narrative storyteller.

This is another entry in the fascinating history of the secret intelligence battle during World War II. Much of this story has been told many times before (especially the battle of Midway and the U-boat war), but interesting new details are always coming out. Journalist Budiansky takes advantage of the thousands of newly declassified files on the so-called war behind the warÄfeats such as breaking the Japanese codeÄthat are legendary in the history of wartime espionage. Having conducted numerous interviews and dug into the primary sources, the author reveals the difficulties of organizing an efficient operation, the mind-numbing work, and getting the military brass to understand and use the product correctly. What is frightening is how stupid bureaucratic battles could cripple important operations. There is sufficient technical explanation of this complicated science/art form, as Budiansky has a degree in mathematics. A chronology, glossary, and notes are included. This easy-to-read work complements Maurice Freedman's The Codebreakers, 1901-1945: Bletchley Park and the Second World War (Leo Cooper, 2000). Suitable for both public and academic libraries. (Photos and index not seen.) [For another book by Budiansky, see The Truth About Dogs, reviewed on p. 106.ÄEd.]ÄDaniel K. Blewett, Coll. of DuPage Lib., Glen Ellyn, IL Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

Ask a Question About this Product More...
Write your question below:
Look for similar items by category
Item ships from and is sold by Fishpond.com, Inc.
Back to top