Marian Rejewski

Marian Adam Rejewski 16 August 1905 – 13 February 1980) was a Polish mathematician and cryptologist who in 1932 solved the plugboard-equipped Enigma machine, the main cipher device used by Germany. The success of Rejewski and his colleagues Jerzy Różycki and Henryk Zygalski jump-started British reading of Enigma in World War II; the intelligence so gained, code-named “Ultra”, contributed, perhaps decisively, to the defeat of Nazi Germany.

While studying mathematics at Poznań University, Rejewski had attended a secret cryptology course conducted by the Polish General Staff’s Cipher Bureau, which he joined full-time in 1932. The Bureau had achieved little success reading Enigma and in late 1932 set Rejewski to work on the problem. After only a few weeks, he deduced the secret internal wiring of the Enigma. Rejewski and his two mathematician colleagues then developed an assortment of techniques for the regular decryption of Enigma messages. Rejewski’s contributions included devising the cryptologic “card catalog,” derived using his “cyclometer,” and the “cryptologic bomb.”

Five weeks before the German invasion of Poland in 1939, Rejewski and his colleagues presented their results on Enigma decryption to French and British intelligence representatives. Shortly after the outbreak of war, the Polish cryptologists were evacuated to France, where they continued their work in collaboration with the British and French. They were again compelled to evacuate after the fall of France in June 1940, but within months returned to work undercover in Vichy France. After the country was fully occupied by Germany in November 1942, Rejewski and fellow mathematician Henryk Zygalski fled, via Spain, Portugal and Gibraltar, to Britain. There they worked at a Polish Army unit, solving low-level German ciphers. In 1946 Rejewski returned to his family in Poland and worked as an accountant, remaining silent about his cryptologic work until 1967.


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