Patrick Weadon (NSA)
Time: 6:15 pm on Thursday, October 6th, 2022
Knowledge is Never Too Dear, but Mathematics is Dearer
The first part of the title is a quote from Sir Francis Walsingham who served as principal
secretary to Queen Elizabeth I of England, and is remembered as her "spymaster." William
Friedman, the acknowledged father of American cryptology, would no doubt agree with him
(Friedman had a more modern but similar take, noting that “Knowledge is Power). Both men
however realized that the ability to gain critical knowledge at critical times can often be the
difference between victory and defeat.
Walsingham was limited in part by the cryptologic methods available to him at the time.
However, Friedman and other cryptologic pioneers, through the auspices of statistical analysis,
took the discipline to a higher and more advanced level. The foundation that these individuals
established in the 20 th century allowed for numerous cryptologic successes in both peacetime,
and more importantly wartime. These achievements allowed the US and its Allies to prevail, and
most importantly saved countless lives.
The second portion of the title makes that point that none of the aforementioned
successes would have been possible without the work of individuals who were highly skilled in
science, technology and most importantly MATHEMATICS.
To quote, the mathematician Shakuntala Devi:
“Without mathematics, there’s nothing you can do.
Everything around you is mathematics.
Everything around you is numbers.”
The brief will highlight the lives and contributions of Friedman and other important
cryptologic figures who were part of this legacy, and attempt to make the point that while the
discipline of mathematics has played an indelible and fundamental role in the past, it is even
more important today.