24 July 2012

I'm a science nerd!

Last Friday, Alice took me to Bletchley Park. This may not immediately ring a bell, as this location was hidden and secretive for years, but it's importance was epic. Without the work done at Bletchley Park, World War II might have lasted several years longer. Bletchley Park was the home of the Allied (mostly British, although some Americans and others as well) Codebreakers. Great men such as mathematician Alan Turing not only broke codes of messages sent by the Axis powers, but also developed the earliest computers. The work these men (and women) did saved countless lives and because it was so secretive it nearly went unnoticed.
Today Bletchley Park can be visited, but amazingly enough, it is not a National Trust site and it depends heavily on donations and grants. I've been told that most recently they have received a sizable one from Google! Yay Google!

Bletchley Park originally began as the mansion and land of wealthy financier, Herbert Samuel Leon. After his death, his children parceled up the land and sold it. Parcel 1 contained the mansion, a lake and about 25 acres. It's location (close to the railway, close to London and close to radio towers) made it an ideal location for the Codebreakers to work. However the cost was £8000, which the British Government / Military could not afford. An individual military officer saw the importance of the location and bought it. The mansion was utilized, but a number of huts were also built. Each hut had workers who performed specific tasks, mostly ignorant of what the others did. During the war, the site operated 24/7. There were three shifts a day, each wth 3000 employees. The locals nearby thought the place was an insane asylum, and nothing was done to persuade them otherwise. (Plus the people who works there WERE a bit eccentric, it is said that Turing often cycled to work in his pajamas.)

The great accomplishments at Bletchley Park included breaking the code on German Enigma machines. Basically the machine worked in such a way that each letter was coded as anothe, after going through a series of rotors. Each rotor was wired differently, and depending on how it was connected, would lead to a different outcome. The only thing that was NOT possible, would be for the letter to code as itself. This fact and also repetitive messages (such as "long live the Führer" at the end of messages) helped them break the daily code.

The other amazing machine in use at Bletchley was the Bombe. This machine greatly aided in breaking the codes on Enigma messages. I did not get a good explanation of how this machine works, but basically it generated a number of possibilities until the message was actual German (which would of course then be translated).

If you want to know more about Bletchley, check out their website at:
There was so much to see and do at Bletchley, we only had time for a small portion of it. It was fascinating and I highly recommend it!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Bletchley Park, Milton Keynes, England

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