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A Beautiful Swedish Mind

by Jonathan Dale Rapoport Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2003 at 8:53 PM
jrapoport@hotmail.com +46 (70) 626-1373 Vasavagen 21, 640 23 Valla, Kingdom of Sweden

The Swedes broke the most elite German code system years before the English, the Poles and the Americans would accomplish the redundant. And the Swedes did it in only two weeks.

“A Beautiful Swedish Mind”

By Jonathan Dale Rapoport

5 August 2003

Copenhagen, The Kingdom of Denmark



“And now you know the rest of the story.”

-Paul Harvey



The Swedes broke the most elite German code system years before the English, the Poles and the Americans would accomplish the redundant. And the Swedes did it in only two weeks.

Genius Swedish mathematician Arne Buerling, who inherited Einstein’s office at Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study, broke the elite G-Schreiber code system in just two weeks.

Ron Howard’s film “A Beautiful Mind” deserves all the credit it got for allowing the audience to decide whether John Nash was merely a man who crossed the fine line between genius and madness or a brilliant Cold War code breaker whose handlers carefully maintained his cover using a psychiatric care system in America which was heavily infiltrated by the intelligence services during the Cold War.

But the story of John Nash looks like a Mexican television soap opera when juxtaposed against the story of Arne Buerling.

The story was written by Bengt Beckman, a career ghost in the machine of Swedish Signal Intelligence.

Originally published in Swedish a couple of years ago under the title “Cryptologia,” the American Mathematical Society has just published an English translation of the book.

The amazing story sheds a bit of light on the neutral Kingdom of Sweden, which, save perhaps Switzerland, is the most mysterious place in the world.

To order this must read visit:

http://www.ams.org/bookstore-getitem/item=swcry



More information from the American Mathematical Society:

From Reviews of the Swedish Edition:

"The present volume is an excellent illustration of the best kind of popularization of a complex, technical subject, in this case, Swedish wartime cryptanalysis. Bengt Beckman ... a grey eminence with Sweden's Sigint organization ... has been permitted to twitch the company veil and show what his colleagues got up to during World War II ... the reader is gently introduced to the basic ideas of cryptanalysis before coming face-to-face with the Geheimschreiber ... Merlin the Magician, in the shape of Arne Beurling ... uncover[ed] the structure of the underlying cryptosystem and ... [was able to] identify its vulnerabilities, thus ensuring a steady flow of decrypts ... The resulting intelligence was used in framing Swedish wartime policy in the fields of defense, diplomacy, economic negotiations, and counterespionage ... The abiding presence of Arne Beurling is felt throughout the book. It therefore fittingly closes with a portrait of this brilliant but quirky hero seen throughout the eyes of colleagues, students, and friends."

-- Craig Graham Mckay, Cryptologia

"The book contains a well of information ... including detailed accounts of how several of the breaks were performed ... The Swedish cryptanalytical achievements are top class and therefore, it is only appropriate to put Sweden in the same league as the other cryptographic `superpowers' at the time: Poland, England, and the USA ... The book is well written and at times, reads like a good thriller ... contains new and unpublished information ..."

-- Frode Weierud, Cryptologia

Description

One of the greatest accomplishments in the history of cryptography occurred in 1940 when a Swedish mathematician broke the German code used for strategic military communications. This story has all the elements of a classic thriller: a desperate wartime situation; a moody and secretive mathematical genius with a talent for cryptography; and a stunning mathematical feat, mysterious to this day. Arne Beurling, the man who inherited Einstein's office at Princeton's Institute for Advanced Study, was the figure who played this role at a crucial moment in world history.

Though the cracking of the code from the Geheimschreiber (G-Schreiber) device is every bit as impressive as the breaking of the Enigma code by the Poles and English, this secret has been kept for over 50 years! Through the eyes of a former head of Sweden's signal intelligence organization, Bengt Beckman, the reader will learn about the events leading up to the breakthrough and make the acquaintance of not only a remarkable mathematician, but also a remarkable human being.

Arne Beurling was a leading international figure who achieved beautiful results in mathematical analysis. By the arrival of World War II, he was one of the most powerful and original mathematicians in the world and widely considered a genius. During his military service, he demonstrated a flair for code and was well known within Swedish cryptology circles. The natural choice of the Swedish intelligence service was to place Beurling at the center of the group charged with breaking the G-Schreiber code. His single-handed effort "broke the unbreakable". Using only teleprinter tapes and cipher text, he deciphered the code that the Germans believed impossible to crack--in two weeks!

The feat, in a word, was astonishing. Many wonder how he did it. But Beurling took his secret to the grave, retorting when asked, "A magician does not reveal his secrets."

The author, Bengt Beckman, for many years was the head of the cryptanalysis department of the Swedish signal intelligence agency. In writing this book, he made extensive use of its archives. He also interviewed many people who participated in the Swedish wartime intelligence effort. He describes in detail Beurling's attack on the G-Schreiber system as well as attacks on several other wartime crypto systems, noting high points from the history of Swedish cryptology.

The book will appeal to a broad audience of readers, from historians and biography buffs to mathematicians to anyone with a passing interest in cryptology and cryptanalysis.

This English edition has been translated by Kjell-Ove Widman, Director of Sweden's Mittag-Leffler Insitute.

-30-

THIS ARTICLE IS THE INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY OF WRITER JONATHAN DALE RAPOPORT, A WRITER BASED IN THE EUROPEAN UNION MEMBER STATE OF THE KINGDOM OF SWEDEN.

STERLING LORD LITERISTIC REPRESENTS JONATHAN DALE RAPOPORT IN NEW YORK CITY.

IT IS STRICTLY PROHIBITED TO COPY, REDESTRIBUTE, PUBLISH OR PLAGARIZE THIS INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY.

ANY INDIVIDUAL, GROUP OF INDIVIDUALS OR ORGANIZATION WHO ENGAGES IN THE AFFORMENTIONED CRIMES WITH THIS INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY WILL BE INVESTIGATED BY PALLORIUM INVESTIGATIVE SERVICES IN NEW YORK CITY.

http://www.pallorium.com/

UPON COMPLETION OF THE INVESTIGATION THE OFFENDING PARTY OR PARTIES WILL BE PROSECUTED TO THE FULLEST EXTENT OF THE LAW AND SUBJECTED TO CIVIL LITIGATION.

DURING CIVIL LITIGATION NO OUT OF COURT SETTLEMENT OFFERS WILL BE ACCEPTED.

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