Sunday, 6 September 2015

Gordon Welchman

Regular readers of this blog will already know that I live about a mile from Bletchley Park - and I am both a big fan of the place (and the tremendous work that has been done there to save, then turn it into a first class place to visit (I thought of using the term - 'museum', which it is - but that word has connotations of dry sterile exhibits - and Bletchley Park is warm, alive and engaging)) and a regular visitor. I'm reading through the many books that have been published about BP - some by the key players themselves.

Tomorrow evening (Monday 7th September), BBC2 are broadcasting - "Bletchley Park: Code-Breaking's Forgotten Genius". It's not about Alan Turing - who, we have come to understand in recent years - played a, once over-looked, key role in code-breaking, Mathematics and the development of computing. Instead it is about another of the fascinating characters who were brought together in Bletchley Park - Gordon Welchman.

Welchman too was a mathematician - and in 1950 he wrote a book, "Introduction to Algebraic Geometry". The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (in a piece written by the son of the Head of BP)  recognises that "he made a SIGNIFICANT contribution to the solving of the Enigma machine cipher...he instinctively grasped a whole range of problems, possibilities, and solutions which included two vital mathematical constructs as well as a concept of the total process required, from the intercepted German ciphered traffic to passing on significant intelligence implications to the commanders in the field...the task of converting the original breakthrough into an efficient user of the material was one for which Welchman should receive much of the credit"

While Turing headed up Hut 8 (which dealt with naval codebreaking), Welchman headed up Hut 6 (army and air force codebreaking) .

I'm looking forward to the programme - I hope you do too (and tell your friends)

There are some good books available -

By Welchman himself -