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S10:E05, “Smashing Codes” edition, with Jason Fagone (video)

Posted by jnshaumeyer on 12 December 2017

Streamed live on 30 November 2017.

Meet Elizebeth and William Friedman, quite possibly the most important people in recent US history that most people have never heard of: the power couple who conjured the US’s code-breaking capabilities virtually out of thin air in World War I, thanks largely to happenstance. Sometimes as a pair, sometimes as isolated individuals, they saw us through the lawless time of Prohibition rum-running, then several nail-biting events during World War II and the increasing importance of being able to decipher secret messages. So much of their work was classified, and Elizebeth’s remarkable abilities filtered through the lens of prejudice against women, that they are little known today, despite their vital work in the twentieth century.

It’s not often we get to say “their story can now be told”, but it’s true, thanks to the declassification of many of their papers, and a new generation’s receptiveness to hearing the story of a remarkable woman’s achievements. Elizebeth’s and William’s story is comprehensively researched and engagingly told by Jason Fagone in his book The Woman Who Smashed Codes: A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine who Outwitted America’s Enemies.

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