The Woman Who Smashed Codes by Jason Fagone

The Woman Who Smashed Codes

Joining the ranks of Hidden Figures and In the Garden of Beasts, the incredible true story of the greatest codebreaking duo that ever lived, an American woman and her husband who invented the modern science of cryptology together and used it to confront the evils of their time, solving puzzles that unmasked Nazi spies and helped win World War IIIn 1916, at the height of World War I, brilliant Shakespeare expert Elizebeth Smith went to work for an...

Details The Woman Who Smashed Codes

TitleThe Woman Who Smashed Codes
Release DateSep 26th, 2017
Publisher Dey Street Books
GenreNonfiction, History, Biography, War, World War II, Historical

Reviews The Woman Who Smashed Codes

  • Charlene
    Possibly one of the best books I have ever read. Even better than Hidden Figures. Thank you Jason Fagone for bringing Elizebeth Friedman into my life. When I first picked up this title, I thought maybe Fagone found a woman who was impressive, but not necessarily one of the most amazing women to ever live, to make the subject of his new book. It seemed possible that perhaps he was overselling her accomplishments and underselling the recognition sh...
  • Jean
    I recently read “Code Girls” by Liza Mundy. This book “The Woman Who Smashed Codes” makes a nice addition or compliment to the storyline. Elizabeth Smith Friedman is the subject of this book. Mundy also mentioned Elizabeth’s husband, William F. Friedman, and deemed them to be an important team of cryptologists. William F. Friedman was famous in World War Two for breaking Purple, the Japanese cipher machine.Elizabeth Smith was a college ...
  • Patrick Brown
    This was fantastic, and I'm not surprised. Fagone is a great writer (check out his previous book Ingenious: A True Story of Invention, Automotive Daring, and the Race to Revive America), and here he has great subject matter to work with. This book tells the story of Elizabeth Friedman, a pioneer in the field of cryptanalysis (that's codebreaking to us civilians), and one of the great unsung heroes of the 20th Century. Friedman's story has all the...
  • Ollivier
    Anyone interested in the History of cryptography knows William F. Friedman, known as the man who broke Purple the Japanese cipher machine and many things. But who did know that his wife, née Elizebeth Smith, was his equal in cryptographic skills? She created a Coast Guard cryptographic team, broke an Enigma without any help from Bletchley Park, helped expose many Prohibition-era gangs and Nazi spy networks in South America during WWII and worked...
  • Mal Warwick
    When Richard Nixon asked Chou En-Lai in 1972 about the impact of the French Revolution, the Chinese Premier famously said, "It's too early to tell." That terse response is generally understood to illustrate the Chinese ability to take the long view of history. But it might be more accurate to regard it as reflecting the constraints on those who write history. Historians can only work with available records: there is no history without documentar...
  • Rick
    Immediately added to my favorites shelf. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.The Woman Who Smashed Codes will be compared with Hidden Figures, and that's fair, to a point. Both books have at their core a story of remarkable scientific/mathematic achievement, overlooked because of gender, largely forgotten (until now) as others took credit. But it is so much more, so rich in its account of not only an extraordinary woman, but the time in wh...
  • Marlene
    Originally published at Reading RealityOnce upon a time in the West, a wealthy and charismatic man whisked a young woman off to a luxurious life on his expansive estate.And even though that sentence is true, this is not that kind of story. Although it is a love story. And a war story. And a spy story.The man was George Fabyan, a wealthy businessman who had created a kind of scientific and technical utopia on his estate at Riverbank, outside of Ge...
  • Barb in Maryland
    Well done biography of one of the most interesting women of the 20th century.Though I do have a quibble with the blurb GR is using for this book, which describes Elizebeth Smith as a 'brilliant Shakespeare expert'. Ermmmm, not quite. Brilliant? Probably. Shakespeare expert? No. Rather, she was a well educated young woman whose casual interest in Shakespeare led her to be in the right place at the right time to catch the interest of eccentric mill...
  • L F
    Frequently slow, but the topic of a woman’s skills in solving mysteries involving codes or cryptic messages is fascinating.
  • Sue
    The Word Smith.Elizebeth (with three ‘e’s) Smith became one of the most renowned codebreakers in history by a quirk of serendipitous fate. As a young woman brought up in a Quaker household, she wished to extend her horizons and at the age of 23 she went to Chicago in search of work. The quest was unsuccessful – but on the last day of her trip, on a whim, Elizebeth decided to visit the Newberry Library where a rare copy of Shakespeare’s Fi...
  • Vicki
    There is so much to think about in this book. Cryptography, women in the workforce, the start of the NSA, World War 1, World War 2, privacy, work, marriage, partnership, humanity, what it means to leave behind a legacy, the dignity of intellectual work, motherhood - and so, so much more. It's a dense read, but today, as we grapple with what it means to be human and to entrust our privacy to machines, and in an era of intense debate about the role...
  • Joyce
    This is one of a number of interesting titles that have come out this year, all celebrating women in unusual roles who made important contributions but were overlooked in their male dominated fields. For fans of spy fiction with codes and codebreaking, this is a particularly interesting one. It chronicles the life of Elizabeth Smith Friedman, a Shakespeare scholar who worked for the eccentric George Fabyan (known to those of us in the Chicago are...
  • Tina Othberg
    This book had the potential to be awesome (looking at other reviews!). However, the writing style of this journalist-turned-author comes off like a recitation of facts. Elizebeth is a fascinating woman that history ignored, her accomplishments and life man-splained away. As much as I appreciated learning about this dynamic figure, I found the writing dry and bogged down with too much detail.
  • Katelyn
    I loved learning about Elizebeth Smith Friedman and her foundational work with cryptoanalysis in the US before and during WWII. This was a great previously hidden history of a woman in a unique position for her time. Fagone cleverly comes up with great descriptions of Elizebeth's code breaking. She smashes, tears apart, etc codes. He keeps the description fresh despite writing about her deciphering many times.Overall I enjoyed this book but found...
  • ⋟Kimari⋞
    You might also enjoy:✱ Code Girls: Women Code Breakers of World War II✱ The Wolves at the Door✱ A Life in Secrets✱ Between Silk and Cyanide✱ The Code Book: The Science of Secrecy✱ Codebreakers✱ Hidden Figures✱ Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania
  • writegeist
    In high school, I was a big WWII history fan, normally on the European and African theaters (Battle of the Bulge, Afrika Corps). I thought I knew a lot about what was going on... Well, I didn't. Not by a long-shot. Fagone's book reveals yet another level to all the actions, both military and civilian, behind the scenes of WWI, Prohibition, and WWII. The Friedman's almost single-handedly created the field of cryptoanalysis (with nods, of course, t...
  • Jay
    I found “The Woman Who Smashed Codes” to be very entertaining. My enjoyment keyed off of two topics, local history and the discussion of codebreaking. Roughly the first third of the book introduces a true character in history, Colonel Fabyan, and his compound in Geneva, Illinois. I have lived less than 10 miles from what’s left of his compound for more than 20 years and had never heard this story, and it was quite unexpected given the area....
  • Judy Lesley
    My oh my, what an amazing story this book has to tell. Puzzle solving is something I find myself doing on a small scale on a daily basis so this revelation of the work in cryptanalysis by Elizebeth Smith Friedman was positively fascinating. Thanks to the passage of time documents which tell this story have now been declassified and it is possible to learn the debt we owe to Elizebeth Friedman for her work with the coast guard and their solution o...
  • Helen
    I loved this book and highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys stories of unsung heroes finally getting their due. This is the fascinating story of Elizebeth Smith Friedman, who with her husband, William Friedman, was pioneer cryptologist. She learned cryptology when an eccentric millionaire hired her to help with a project trying to prove Francis Bacon wrote William Shakespeare's plays. That meant when World War I came around, she was among the...
  • Bonny
    I would bet that only a few people know about cryptography, and fewer still are familiar with the names and work of those who developed the science, like Turing, Shannon, and Friedman. Even if you have heard of William Friedman as one of the founders of the National Security Agency, you most likely have never heard of his wife Elizebeth and her work. Thanks to Jason Fagone, we can finally read her fascinating story in The Woman Who Smashed Codes....
  • Feisty Harriet
    Cryptology, the study and science of code breaking, got it's start in the US (and Europe) by a husband-wife team who were GENIUSES at making and breaking codes. However, it was Elizabeth and not her husband who truly did the brunt of code-breaking to take down enormous Nazi spy rings during WWII. Elizabeth and William (Billy) started working for the government solving codes during WWI, but it wasn't until after the war that Elizabeth came into he...
  • Correen
    A story that begs to be told, Elizabeth Friedman was a strong and adaptable woman whose story has been hidden far to long. She was a major actor in the Allied win in WWII. We are much aware of British code breaking but little aware of the work done in the U.S. especially of this unsung hero. Elizabeth and her husband worked together for many years and then in separate projects. He became known to other code breakers but Elizabeth was neither paid...
  • Heather
    This is a book that deserves praise, but I could only give it 3 stars because of my own faults: I am bored by war stories, and really couldn’t care less about codes and cryptology. I read it anyway because it was our book club selection this month, but unfortunately my experience was similar to when I read “Unbroken” a few years back. I slogged through it, all the while feeling guilty for not having more eclectic tastes.That being said, I a...
  • Elizabeth Buckner
    I thought this book was quite interesting, well written, a true story. Code breaking is not really something I'd ever thought of before, especially involving the World Wars and how things might have been different if Elizebeth and William Friedman had not done what they did! Disclaimer: there is some language.
  • Erica
    A great historical read about a couple I had never really heard of, but who had major influence on code breaking, cryptology and the shadow war during WWII. I thought it was fascinating how they were so good at breaking codes and ciphers without ever really being trained, they were almost completely self taught. There was some profanity sprinkled throughout, and few of their dairy entries and letters to each other were a bit personal and lewd.
  • Carolyn Porter
    The best book that I read in 2017! I liked it so much — and felt it was such an important, inspiring story — that I bought additional copies to give as Christmas gifts.
  • Samm | Sassenach the Book Wizard
    How crap! How did I never learn ANY of this in school?! So freaking interesting and such an enjoyable read!
  • Bookjazzer2010
    Brilliant! One of the most interesting stories I've read recently. It was the perfect book to read for International Women's Day. We've come a long way, but we still have a long way to go.
  • Sheila
  • Anne Mccune
    I like to read about strong women who do good things. I studied math and understand the concept of code breaking and like the teamwork displayed between Elizabeth and William. I appreciate the ability of Elizabeth's ability to study something until she can finally solve the problem. I am glad that she had the foresight to move her records to a library that was outside the govenment's control.