Person: Welchman, William Gordon
William Gordon Welchman was an English mathematician who played an important part in the World War II codebreaking at Bletchley Park.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- Welchman matriculated at Cambridge in 1925 where he studied the mathematical tripos.
- Welchman's career was progressing well.
- One recipient of the letters sent out to lecturers at these two universities was Gordon Welchman.
- This way of organising operations was made in a proposal by Welchman.
- Furthermore, Welchman realised that a particular design flaw of the Enigma machine meant that a letter could never be encrypted as itself.
- Welchman made a very significant contribution to reducing the number of possibilities that had to be considered by the Bombe and greatly enhanced its usefulness.
- After the war ended Welchman did not return to academic life but instead was appointed as director of research for the John Lewis Partnership.
- We noted above that Welchman had been writing the book Introduction to Algebraic Geometry when he was recruited to the codebreaking operations at Bletchley Park.
- Myrtle Hussey was Welchman's second cousin.
- Welchman's book was the first and interestingly enough it probably remains the only serious book in print to describe technically how the Bombe worked and how Enigma messages were decrypted on an industrial scale.
- There were references to it in other books but not in the detail that Welchman went into.
- Welchman was in charge of Hut 6 at Bletchley Park during the first part of the War.
- The book was not banned but Welchman lost his US security clearance and was forbidden to discuss his book or his wartime work with the media.
- Three years after publication of the book, GCHQ Director Sir Peter Marychurch sent Welchman a letter in which he accused him of damaging security.
- They saw him out of uniform, at the age of 33, and Welchman was not able to tell them what contribution he was making to the war effort.
Born 15 June 1906, Fishponds, near Bristol, England. Died 8 October 1985, Newburyport, Massachusetts, USA.
View full biography at MacTutor
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Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive