Cover image for Code breaking : a history and exploration
Code breaking : a history and exploration
Kippenhahn, Rudolf, 1926-
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Verschlüsselte Botschaften. English
First edition.
Publication Information:
Woodstock, N.Y. : Overlook Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
283 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
Z103 .K5613 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



The achievements of cryptography, the art of writing and deciphering coded messages, have become a part of everyday life, especially in our age of electronic banking and the Internet. In Code Breaking , Rudolf Kippenhahn offers readers both an exciting chronicle of cryptography and a lively exploration of the cryptographer's craft. Rich with vivid anecdotes from a history of coding and decoding and featuring three new chapters, this revised and expanded edition makes the often abstruse art of deciphering coded messages accessible to the general reader and reveals the relevance of codes to our everyday high-tech society. A stylishly written, meticulously researched adventure, Code Breaking explores the ways in which communication can be obscured and, like magic, made clear again.

Author Notes

Rudolf Kippenhahn is the award-winning author of One Hundred Billion Suns and the former director of the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics inMunich. For ten years he was a professor of astronomy and astrophysics at the University of Göttingen.

Ewald Osers (1917-2011) was an award-winning translator of Czech and German.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

As our communication age swirls into the next millenium, how we communicate becomes more important than ever, and how we prevent others from reading our communications becomes a large part of that. The author has traced the origins of coding and decoding and takes this back to the golden age of espionage and up through the most popular types of modern coding and how many were cracked. Computerphiles will recognize the groundwork for modern scrambled message codes, such as encryption, while code disks can be traced back as far as Julius Caesar and beyond to Polybius in the second century B.C. Kippenhahn's approach takes what could be a dry subject loaded with potentially undecipherable material and enlivens it with fascinating stories about historical efforts to create and then break codes. All of this is done in a straightforward but provocative style, and his up-to-the-minute discussion of the role of the Internet in modern-day coding makes this book the definitive look at the subject. --Joe Collins

Library Journal Review

Astrophysicist Kippenhahn (One Hundred Billion Stars, Princeton Univ., 1993) attempts to introduce the general reader to the history of cryptology, with much of his book covering the events and intrigue surrounding World War II and the German cipher machine known as Enigma. Sadly, Kippenhahns use of narrative prose with stodgy technical jargon leaves the reader with neither a good story nor hard science. The documentation used in the text is sparse at best, and the annotated bibliography contains a mere handful of titles; no glossary of terms is included. Though a generous selection of illustrations is sprinkled throughout, this in no way offsets the inherent weaknesses of the volume. Not recommended.Dayne Sherman, Southeastern Louisiana Univ., Hammond (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Kippenhahn's book is fascinating, clever, and informative. It begins with a leisurely stroll through easily understood coding methods involving Leonidas, King of Sparta; Mary, Queen of Scots; and Thomas Jefferson and ends with a thorough description of the various RSA computer methods, including PGP (Pretty Good Privacy), now used by millions on the Internet. All major and some minor encrypting methods are deftly introduced by actual historical cases and then covered in detail. Although some of the explanations of coding and decoding can be tedious to the casual reader, they serve as preparations for later, more complicated systems. The engrossing treatment of the ENIGMA machine is exhaustive and serves to dispel some of the myths that have been spun around it. Appendixes contain instructions to construct an encrypting machine, a reference to and explanation of a PC program that simulates the ENIGMA, and references to a PGP program. This flawless translation from the German original is also a skillful transcription: almost all theoretical examples have been replaced by appropriate English counterparts, and many of the historical illustrations are from English and American sources. A thoroughly satisfying book! General readers; lower-division undergraduates. J. Mayer; Lebanon Valley College