The Ultra and the Enigma

The development of information technology has among its largest contributors the telephone industry and the military. Much of this and the following three articles are about the military contribution, yet the two systems fed on each other.  Science is the parent of technology and technological needs in response, can drive science. Nowhere is this truer than the development of information science and information technology.
 
When you hear or read the word "genius", you are likely to think of Albert Einstein, who is deservedly well-connected to the term, but also had good press. Three intellectual giants of the 20th century stood as tall as Einstein did. They were Claude Shannon, John von Neumann and Alan Turing. It is my opinion that each of these men were the equal - in their own way - of Einstein.  Shannon was once employed by Bell Labs (the telephone connection), von Neumann taught alongside Einstein at the Princeton Institute for Advanced Studies and Turing - a British citizen is considered the father of Computer Science.
 
Together, these three men were also protectors of civilization against the greatest evil that the world has ever known. They were all instrumental in World War II. 
 
Turing was one of the leaders of the Ultra project, which was the crucial effort to decode German transmissions that had been encrypted via the cipher device called the Enigma Machine. According to both Winston Churchill and Dwight Eisenhower, Ultra had shortened World War II by two to perhaps four years, and had been decisive in victory. It would be realistic to suggest that Turing's work saved millions of lives.  Following the War, when Turing's homosexuality came to light, his government destroyed him - both personally and professionally. His death at 42 - probably by suicide - was a loss of incalculable proportions. The "Turing Machine" - which was sort of a blueprint that enabled engineers to construct Central Process Units (CPUs)  - made possible the computer as we know it.
 
John von Neumann's prodigous intellect was almost unimageanable in its capacity. Von Neumann had an almost super human ability to do mathematical calculations in his head. He was a major contributor to the Manhattan project which developed the atomic bomb. He was so militaristic and so violently anti-communist that if he had his way, probably none of us would be here now and the world would be in the grip of a nuclear winter.  Yet, his contributions are felt "under the hood" in many of the disciplines that make life as we know it now. Von Neumann died in 1955 of either bone or pancreatic cancer. (The diagnostics that we have today, in part because of his work, were not then available to determine which.) It is theorized that this cancer may have been the result of his exposure to radiation in his work.
 

Along with Claude Shannon's war-time work (he was a collaborator of Turing's at one time), Shannon is arguably the founder of digital theory and the application of boolean logic to computer circuitry. Shannon lived the longest and probably the best of the three. He became wealthy. Shannon invented the technique of Card Counting and used his techniques to win vast amounts of money at gambling. By the time he was banned from every Casino in the nation, I'm sure that he couldn't have cared less, because by that time he was rolling in cash.  Ironically, the inventor of the digital revolution died of Alzheimer's disease. When he passed away in 2001, at the age of 85 when many are still productive - he had no idea of the transformation that he had sparked.

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