Person: Zygalski, Henryk
Henryk Zygalski was a Polish mathematician and cryptologist who worked at breaking German Enigma ciphers before and during World War II.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- Michał Zygalski ran a tailor's shop at 22 Mielżyńskiego Street in Poznań.
- Henryk attended the St Mary Magdalene Gymnasium in Poznań where his favourite subjects were mathematics and physics.
- Later in the year 1926 Zygalski entered the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences of Poznań University.
- Zygalski attended Krygowski's courses on higher algebra and on mathematical analysis at Poznań University.
- In January 1929 Zygalski attended a new cryptology course and, because of the importance of this, we must fill in a little background about the course.
- Zygalski was one of twenty students who selected for this course as were his fellow mathematics students from Poznań University, Marian Rejewski and Jerzy Rózycki.
- A couple of hours later, some of the students including Rejewski, Zygalski and Rózycki proved capable of decoding the message.
- Rejewski graduated from Poznań University in March 1929 but Zygalski continued to study at Poznań for his Master's Degree in Mathematics.
- However, from the summer of 1930 Zygalski worked for 12 hours a week at a laboratory set up in the underground vaults of Poznań's military command in St Martin Street, close to the Mathematics Institute, deciphering German messages.
- By September 1932 Zygalski was working at the Ministry of War building in Marshal Pilsudski Square in central Warsaw but later the team moved to Biuro Szyfrów-4, the cipher office dealing with German messages in Kabackie Woods outside Warsaw.
- Zygalski and his two fellow mathematicians were presented with a commercial version of the Enigma machine and set to work, using the intercepted coded messages, to reconstruct the modifications made in the military version.
- Zygalski contributed to the whole of this work but he is famed for one particular advance that he made.
- In the autumn of 1938, Zygalski came up with perforated sheets which became known as a Zygalski sheets, which could be used to determine the setting.
- In fact, n!n!n! sheets were required for an Enigma machine with nnn rotors so, for the initial Enigma machines with 3 rotors, only 6 Zygalski sheets were required.
- However, when 5 rotor Enigma machines came into use 60 Zygalski sheets were required.
- On 24-25 July 1939, British and French experts met Zygalski and the other two Polish cryptographers at Biuro Szyfrów-4 in the Kabackie Woods outside Warsaw.
- It is not overstating the case to say that Zygalski and his two colleagues changed the course of the war.
- On 3 September the British and French declared war on Germany and on 5 September Zygalski, Rejewski and Rózycki were told to evacuate Warsaw on a special train.
- On 24 June Zygalski and his two colleagues were flown to North Africa, given new identities in Algiers, and were then returned to Vichy France where they again worked on cryptography.
- Zygalski and his two Polish colleagues operated as Station 300.
- Zygalski and Rejewski, having learnt in advance that this was about to happen, fled first to the Italian zone, then back to occupied Vichy France, and finally on 29 January 1943, travelled to the Spanish border accompanied by a smuggler.
- Once in Spain, Zygalski and Rejewski were arrested.
- After a short time in prison, Zygalski and Rejewski were released and went first to Madrid then, at the end of July 1943, they fled to Portugal.
- Once in England, Zygalski and Rejewski became part of the Polish Signals Battalion stationed at Boxmoor near London.
- Zygalski was appointed to teach at the Polish University College from the time it was set up.
- Zygalski, however, was one of the eight.
- Zygalski was at last was on the staff of a university but, sadly, his time as a university teacher was short for he suffered a stroke in 1968.
- Those at Battersea Polytechnic and the University of Surrey were never aware of Zygalski's role in the war.
Born 15 July 1908, Posen, German Empire (now Poznań, Poland). Died 30 August 1978, Liss, Hampshire, England.
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