Books Read: The Woman Who Smashed Codes

Book Info


A partial biography of Elizebeth Friedman a cryptographer during the first and second world wars. Often overshadowed by her husband who was one of the founders of the NSA this book details an amazing life and accomplishments. She worked for a rich eccentric looking for secrets in Shakespeare which gave her the skills to crack real codes. Prohibition took her to the Coast Guard to deal with smugglers. During WWII she was one of the people who cracked the Enigmas and helped battle the Nazi’s in South America.


The book is beautifully written with some wonderful alliterative passages. The author avoids getting stuck in the mathematics and focuses more on the problem and puzzle solving aspects of code breaking. As always the humans are the weak link in most code situations. The book details some of the “silent war” in South America which reminded me of the W.E.B. Griffin books that I enjoyed. I did not realize how much inspiration he took from reality.

Final Word

I’m giving this a 45 stars on Goodreads. For people interested in women pioneers in computers and cryptography this book is a a must read.