Enigma Machine: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about the Enigma Machine.

  • The Enigma Machine was an advanced cipher or coding machine, developed in Germany after World War I. The Germans mistakenly believed the Allies would not be able to break the codes.

  • The machine was used to send top secret messages. It used a system of replacing one letter with another, and sent the messages using a standard Morse code transmitter.
  • A team of code breakers, mathematicians and electronics experts was set up to break the codes. Some of the team was skilled at chess, crossword puzzles and ancient writing.
  • The team was known as the Government Code and Cipher School. It was based in several huts in the grounds of Bletchley Park, a mansion near Milton Keynes.
  • One of the most well-known code breakers was Alan Turing. Turing devised several techniques to break German codes and was awarded the OBE by King George VI in 1945.

Enigma Machine

  • The knowledge learned from breaking the Enigma Machine codes was known as ‘ultra’. It helped the Allies to prepare for the D-Day invasion and to shorten World War II by several years.
  • The Allies found it very difficult to decipher the codes, often going for months without doing so. The German Navy’s enigma messages were not deciphered for 4 years, from 1937 to 1941.
  • About 100,000 Enigma Machines were made. After World War II, the British and American governments sold some of the captured Enigma Machines.
  • Today, Bletchley Park is a museum, and has several Enigma Machines, as well as other computing exhibits.
  • Enigma Machines can also be seen in the Science Museum and several museums in the US.
  • The 2012 television series The Bletchley Circle is a fictional story of several code breakers hunting a murderer. The 2014 film The Imitation Game is based on the life of Alan Turing.

Interesting Alan Turing Facts

Here are some facts about Alan Turing.

  • Alan Turing was a logician, mathematician and computer scientist. He is generally known for his work in artificial intelligence and computer science.
  • Turing was born in London in 1912, and at school was able to solve complex problems without having been taught them.

  • Once he cycled almost 100 km from his home to school as the General Strike was on.
  • In 1936, he came up with the idea of a machine that was able to compute anything that could be computed. This was known as the Turing Machine and led to the modern computer.
  • During World War 2, Turing worked at Bletchley Park and was involved in breaking the German Enigma Machine codes.
  • Turing often ran 60 km to London for meetings, and he liked to chain his coffee mug to a radiator at Bletchley Park to stop other people using it.
  • During the late 1940s he worked in the University of Manchester in mathematics and computing. His experiment, the Turing test tried to devise an intelligence standard for technology.
  • In 1948 he wrote a chess programme for a computer that had yet to be invented. He also published several important papers on mathematical biology.
  • He worked on standards for machines to be called intelligent. The same principle is used today in online CAPTCHA tests, which determine whether a user is a person or a machine.
  • Turing committed suicide in 1954, by eating an apple containing cyanide. He was fascinated with the Disney cartoon version of Snow White which features a similar idea.
  • Alan Turing has been named as one of the 100 most important people of the 20th century. A Manchester road is named for him, as are many colleges, and there is an Alan Turing version of Monopoly.
  • There is a statue of Turing in Whitworth Gardens, Manchester. In 2012, the Olympic flame was passed from one person to another in front of the statue, on what would have been his 100th birthday.

What next? Discover some facts about other famous mathematicians.