Friedman, William Frederick

Friedman, William Frederick

(1891–1969) cryptologist; born in Kishinev, Russia. His family emigrated to the United States in 1893. Originally trained as a geneticist, he headed a genetics lab in Geneva, Ill. (1915–17, 1919–20). He had become interested in cryptology and during World War I he set up a cryptology school with his wife for military personnel. Soon recognized by the U.S. government as being in the forefront of such work, he was made head of the Signal Intelligence Service (1930) and he broke the Japanese "Purple" code (1937–40), thus allowing Americans to read much of Japan's secret messages during World War II. He continued to be involved with American intelligence until 1955, by which time he began to receive wider recognition as one of the world's major cryptologists.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.