How scientists are cracking historical codes to reveal lost secrets

How scientists are cracking historical codes to reveal lost secrets

The Vatican’s archives include 1000’s of manuscripts which are encrypted

Vatican Apostolic Archive

BEATA MEGYESI strode previous the Pontifical Swiss Guards, of their Renaissance-era uniforms. She was headed not for the Sistine Chapel or St Peter’s Basilica, however the Vatican’s archives. Treasured few persons are allowed into this legendary assortment of paperwork and letters spanning 12 centuries. But even in that context, Megyesi’s 2012 go to was unusually intriguing. She was right here to see texts so secret that no residing particular person, not even the pope, may inform you what they include.

Megyesi, a linguist based mostly at Uppsala College in Sweden on the time, had travelled to the Vatican to pore over a tranche of papers written in elaborate ciphers – the key codes utilized by spymasters and others desperate to ship non-public messages. An professional in cracking historic codes, she had been invited after breaking the infamous Copiale cipher.

Megyesi had the chance to make use of the Vatican’s encrypted papers for a venture with an audacious purpose: to completely automate the method of decrypting historic ciphers in order that many 1000’s of in any other case inaccessible letters may lastly converse to us from down the centuries. “The dream is to have the ability to level your cellphone digicam at a cipher and skim it instantly,” she says.

Within the decade since, Megyesi and her colleagues have developed software program that expedites their painstaking cryptanalysis – and researchers related to the venture have notched some outstanding successes. These embrace the latest decryption of a very fiendish code employed by a Seventeenth-century French nobleman and, most sensationally, the cipher encrypting letters written by …

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