(April 13, 1889-August 7, 1958)
Born in Worthington, Indiana
Cryptographer (code breaker)
Headed MI-8 during World War I
Headed the Cipher Bureau (1918-29), funded by the US Army and State Department
Wrote the memoir 'The American Black Chamber' (1931)
Why he might be annoying
An acquaintance noted, 'Among his enthusiasms were drinking, gambling and women.'
He convinced Western Union and other companies to violate US law by giving him copies of telegrams sent from foreign embassies.
A biographer claimed he was a 'second rate' cryptanalyst who avoided tackling difficult-to-break mechanical ciphering systems and never recognized the importance of hiring statisticians and mathematicians to crack such codes.
In his memoirs, he revealed which nations' codes his organization had broken, prompting almost all of them to adopt new, more difficult to break codes.
In public, he claimed that his book did not compromise American intelligence, because the US had stopped code breaking when the State Department shut down the Cipher Bureau.
In reality, he knew that the Cipher Bureau's duties had been taken over by the Army's Signal Intelligence Service, headed by Yardley's rival, William Friedman.
Why he might not be annoying
He was president of his senior class in high school.
While working as a code clerk in the State Department, he became convinced that the the ciphers the US was using were so simple as to be useless for secrecy.
When he was unable to make any headway with his superiors, he proved his point by cracking every American code in use within a few months.
He managed to break the Japanese diplomatic code despite not knowing the Japanese language. (He hired a former missionary to translate the messages he deciphered.)
Breaking the code played an important part in limiting the size of the Japanese navy at the Washington Naval Conference (1921).
He wrote 'The Education of a Poker Player,' which 'Time' called 'a primer for all serious players.'
Credit: C. Fishel
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