The famous names of mathematicians at Bletchley Park are now a matter of public record and include eminent figures such as Max Newman, JWS Cassels, Philip Hall and Sandy Green as well as the more cryptanalytically celebrated Alan Turing, Jack Good and Bill Tutte.

Other countries also began making use of mathematicians in cryptology around this time. The Polish Enigma successes of Rejewski, Rozycki and Zygalski are an obvious example. It's also become clear that many significant mathematical figures were involved in their own national efforts: Teiji Takagi helped in the design of the Japanese PURPLE cipher; Arne Beurling single-handedly broke the Siemens-Halske T52 (known as STURGEON at BP) for the Swedish goverment; Weierud and Zabell give a thorough account of the use of German mathematicians in the OKW/Chi including Ernst Witt and Oswald Teichmüller. Are there any other examples? In particular, is there any evidence of Italy or the Soviet Union making use of their mathematical talent at this time?


1 Answer 1



There is more information about specifically Gelfond, and more generally cryptography in the Soviet Union in the page of Moscow State University Math Insitute here. Somewhat like the GCHQ discovery of RSA, it seems:

Aleksandr Osipovich Gel'fond (1906‑1968), who graduated from MSU in year 1927, investigated the complexity of the discrete logarithm problem long before works on this subject were published. In mathematics, he is known for the solution of Hilbert problem № 7 on transcendentality of degrees of algebraic numbers.

It also states that there was a dedicated "closed" school there from the 1950s to train cryptographers.

According to notes by Jay Naigle, Gelfond came up with the Shanks' algorithm for Discrete Log in 1962; see here and specifically here.

First Version:

I have located this snippet from an interview


with Vladimir Arnold one of the top Russian mathematicians of the 20th Century. It names Alexander Gelfond as such a mathematician. I have found no details about his contributions, and Cryptologia talks about Soviet cryptographers contributions during Spanish civil war briefly, but there may be more information somewhere else.


Will keep looking when I have more time.

Google translated:

Is it true that the KGB cryptography units were school for the preparation of mathematical geniuses and helped their contribution to science?

In my opinion, there is no benefit for mathematics in Russia from cryptography, just like from accounting and other uses of the multiplication table, except perhaps a salary [to the] participating mathematicians. It is true, however, that for cryptography benefit from mathematical geniuses was huge. For example, one of the best mathematicians in Russia——Alexander Osipovich Gelfond (November 24, 2006 we celebrated the 100th anniversary of his birth) [was the] chief cryptographer of the fleet during the war. I think with general rank in the relevant committee. He is famous not only for his brilliant work on the theory numbers (for which, however, he was never chosen for some reason - then to academicians, although he was elected a corresponding member in his youth), but also with his secret work.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I have accepted this excellent answer, but would still be very interested in any other examples that people may know of. $\endgroup$
    – Daniel S
    Commented Nov 11, 2022 at 19:34
  • $\begingroup$ BTW the third link seems to be garbled somehow $\endgroup$
    – Daniel S
    Commented Nov 11, 2022 at 19:43

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.