Computer Program Cracks Cipher That Stumped Thomas Jefferson

Nunmber 68 of the Top 100 Science Stories of 2009 (courtesy of Discover magazine) is the story of Robert Patterson, an American mathematician from 200 years ago. Patterson and our third president, Thomas Jefferson, shared an interest in cryptography, and in 1801 Patterson sent Jefferson a letter containing a message encrypted with a code that Patterson claimed would stump humanity “until the end of time.”

Well, it did stump humanity for over two centuries, but Lawren Smithline of Princeton, New Jersey cracked it last year. You can read how in the article. (The encrypted message? The Preamble to the Declaration of Independence.)

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