Dr. Adrian Vela was one of the most influential thinkers in the realm of cryptanalysis. A contemporary of Claude Shannon, Vela was a minor member of the team that broke the Japanese military ciphers during World War II and rose to be the deputy head of signals analysis and cryptography for the CIA after the war. His maxim, “with enough time, even a monkey can break our best code,” is still in use today.

Dr. Vela took an early retirement in 1970 and bought a small house in tidewater Virginia. Declining offers to teach at his alma maters, the University of Virginia and Harvard, he instead devoted himself full-time to nature poetry. While he took visitors and sometime unofficially consulted on cryptanalysis problems for his former colleagues, he published no further work in his field.

Instead, Dr. Vela devoted himself to writing nature poetry in the form of haikus. From his retirement in 1970 to his death from pancreatic cancer in 1987, Vela wrote over 10,000 haikus chatacterized by extremely inventive and odd word usage. The manuscripts went to the University of Virginia archives, where they were for many years a popular topic of study.

The idea was that surely Dr. Vela must have encoded a ciphertext among his haikus, much as he had once hidden obscene messages in otherwise innocuous letters-to-the-editor during his days at Harvard. Some of the best cryptological minds of the following generation applied themselves to the problem for years.

In 1999, it was announced that an incredibly complex cipher had in fact been discovered by applying a frequency analysis to the haikus which were prime numbers in the series of 10,000+ poems. With much fanfare, it was decrypted in a live TV special for the Archaeology Channel:

SOMETIMES A MAN JUST WANTS TO WRITE POETRY

  • Like what you see? Purchase a print or ebook version!
Advertisements