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The Woman Who Smashed Codes: A True Story of…

The Woman Who Smashed Codes: A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely…

by Jason Fagone

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3291650,069 (4.04)27



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Showing 1-5 of 16 (next | show all)
Elizebeth’s story is a gripping mix of romance, thriller, and history. Her relationship with her husband must overcome the weight of secrets and danger of wars. Her codebreaking work is puzzle solving with thousands of lives at stake. There are sneaky Nazi plots, a conniving Hoover, and the dawn of the NSA. Fargone also brings the science of codebreaking into Elizebeth’s story. His use of visual comparisons and detailed examples makes codebreaking interesting. He makes observations about Elizebeth’s story, codebreaking, and history that at times feel poetic. For instance, on codebreaking he says “the basic unit of their [Elizebeth and her husband] life was not the equation but the word” (xii). The Woman Who Smashed Codes offers a fascinating biography, a story of an intelligent and courageous woman, a look at 1890s-1980s history, and espionage history. ( )
  Roxanne_Reading | Mar 10, 2019 |
Elizebeth Smith, a Shakespeare scholar, went to work for eccentric tycoon George Fabian, at his estate outside Chicago, in 1916. Her assignment was to assist another Shakespeare scholar, an older woman, in her project to prove that Shakespeare's plays were really written by Francis Bacon, and that Bacon had hidden secret messages in the plays.

At first Elizebeth assumed that these older, more experienced people must know what they were doing, and her failure to find the messages were hers.

William Friedman also worked on the estate, as a plant geneticist, but he also photographed and enlarged First Folio texts of the plays for the use of the Bacon project, and that's how he and Elizebeth met. And has World War I continued, and both Elizebeth and William became more involved in the code breaking, while the demand for people able to break codes became ever more urgent for the military, the two young scholars began to morph into the founding figures of American cryptanalysis, and more involved with each other. They married, they left Riverbank, they went to work for the government, Elizebeth for the the Coast Guard and William for the Army.

This is a love story, a story of spies and counterespionage, and a story of the founding of a whole new discipline. Elizebeth and William both played critical, leading roles in this story. William's story has been told before; Elizebeth's largely has not.

It's a fascinating and important story, and Fagone tells it very well, making it as enlightening and compelling as it deserves to be. Cassandra Campbell also reads it very well, doing full credit to the story and the writing. I'm starting to recognize her name as a narrator who never disappoints.

Highly recommended.

I bought this audiobook. ( )
  LisCarey | Feb 16, 2019 |
This is the fascinating story of Elizebeth Friedman. Her husband, William, is famous for his pioneering contributions to cryptanalysis, but she contributed just as much, if not more, to the field. She was also instrumental in monitoring and breaking spy networks in South America. Her husband and J. Edgar Hoover got the credit for a lot of her work, partly because men often get credit for women's work, and partly because she was a modest person who felt she was just doing her job. Her life story is fascinating, and I'm glad someone has written her biography to rescue her from obscurity. ( )
  Gwendydd | Feb 2, 2019 |
3.5 stars

Elizabeth and William Friedman met while learning to decode messages. They both went on to various jobs where they were decrypting messages, but Elizabeth’s work seems to have been forgotten. They were part of the beginning of cryptography. Elizabeth did some decoding during WWI, during prohibition in the 1920s, and during WWII.

This was good. It was interesting to learn about the history of cryptology and even more interesting that a woman was at the forefront of it! I listened to the audio, and while the narrator was fine, and mostly I was kept interested, my mind did wander occasionally. I think that’s why I sometimes forgot who was who and why I kept my rating down just a bit from the 4 stars I’d like to give! I would recommend this be read in print, though, as there is plenty I think I would have liked to have seen on a page rather than heard read out to me. Apparently, there was an “enhancement” to the audio that should come with the audio, but not via my library (though I have had one other book in the past from the library that came with a pdf I could (and did) download to look at graphs and charts). ( )
  LibraryCin | Dec 29, 2018 |
Interesting book about Elizebeth Friedman and her husband, William, who became the earliest code breakers in this country and built the agencies needed to save the country in the second world war. Elizebeth didn't get much credit for her work and abilities because she didn't seem publicity and because J. Edgar Hoover grabbed the credit. She solved all types of codes including the enigma used by Germany without Germany realizing their codes had been broken. A lot of the success for dealing with Nazi spying depended on England and US keeping the FBI out of the loop. If you are interested in code breaking or learning about successful intelligent women - try this book.
  taurus27 | Dec 19, 2018 |
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The king hath note of all that they intend, by interception which they dream not of.  Shakespeare, Henry V, 1599
Knowledge itself is power.  Francis Bacon, Sacred Meditations, 1597
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This is a love story.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Traces the life of Elizebeth Smith, who met and married groundbreaking cryptologist William Friedman and worked with him to discover and expose Nazi spy rings in South America by cracking multiple versions of the Enigma machine.

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