The Code Book

Secret messages. The Art of encryption from antiquity to the days of the Internet ( original English title " The Code Book. The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography ") is a book published by Simon Singh at Fourth Estate, London in September 1999 popular science book, illustrating the history of cryptology based on historical events. In 2000, the German -language edition (translator Klaus Fritz) appeared at Carl Hanser in Munich. The book was honored with the Corine 2001. It consists of eight chapters, an appendix and a glossary.


Francis Walsingham founded the British Secret Service. Mary Stuart Nomenklator and the story of their fateful involvement in the Babington Plot by the author serve as an introduction to the history of cryptography. Two illustrations summarize some basic concepts - the key to the encryption / decryption of the plaintext / ciphertext. Furthermore, it comes to the difference between encrypting and hiding and when encrypting to transposition and substitution. When substituting different (word ) Replace Simon Singh between encryption and encoding.

Charles Babbage and a few years later Friedrich Kasiski break the Vigenere encryption. Étienne Bazeries deciphered the "Great cipher" of Rossignol and thus contributes to the identification of the man in the iron mask. The undiminished Beale cipher is also mentioned.

Georges Painvin cracks ADFGVX radio messages. In Room 40, the Zimmermann telegram is decrypted. Arthur Scherbius developed the Enigma.

The pioneering work of the mathematician Marian Rejewski in Biuro Szyfrów allows the group to Alan Turing at Bletchley Park to decipher the Enigma radio messages.

Topic of the chapter are natural languages ​​, such as the use of the Navajo code in World War II, but also the deciphering of the hieroglyphs by Thomas Young and Jean -François Champollion or of Linear B by Michael Ventris, John Chadwick and Alice Kober.

This chapter describes the roots of asymmetric cryptography: The invention of the RSA cryptosystem and Diffie -Hellman - Merkle key exchange by scientists and the first undisclosed parallel discoveries at GCHQ by James H. Ellis, Clifford Cocks and Malcolm Williamson.

The book concludes with explanations of quantum cryptography by David German and Charles Bennett.


The book was discussed on 17 March 2000 by Bernd Graff in the "Sueddeutsche Zeitung " and on August 17, 2000 by Joachim Laukemann in the "time".

Output used

  • Simon Singh: The Code Book. The Art of encryption from the ancient times to the age of the Internet. Translated from English by Klaus Fritz. With numerous black and white illustrations German Taschenbuch Verlag, Munich 2012 ( 11th Edition ), ISBN 978-3-42333071-8