Elizebeth Smith Friedman, America’s first female cryptanalyst, worked as a code breaker who successfully broke up a Nazi spy ring across South America during the 1940s. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover took credit for her work until reports were declassified in 2008.

How Codebreaker Elizebeth Friedman Broke Up a Nazi Spy Ring

Armed with a sharp mind and nerves of steel, Elizebeth Smith Friedman (1892–1980) cracked hundreds of ciphers during her career as America’s first female cryptanalyst, successfully busting smugglers during Prohibition and, most notably, breaking up a Nazi spy ring across South America during the 1940s.

But until records detailing her involvement in World War II were declassified in 2008, most Americans had never heard of Friedman. A man—then-director of the FBI J. Edgar Hoover—took credit for Friedman’s wartime success, and she took her secret life as one of the country’s top codebreakers to the grave.

Those eager to learn more about Friedman’s extraordinary accomplishments can now watch a new documentary, “The Codebreaker” on PBS’ … Continue Reading (4 minute read)

11 thoughts on “Elizebeth Smith Friedman, America’s first female cryptanalyst, worked as a code breaker who successfully broke up a Nazi spy ring across South America during the 1940s. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover took credit for her work until reports were declassified in 2008.”

  1. groovyinutah

    Yeah…Hoover was a real piece of work. The moment he died they changed the rules about how long you could serve in that position.

  2. Vinalvice

    Wow Hoover is a proper twat

  3. SolidSquid

    A large part of Alan Turing’s team (in fact the people who did most of the actual work) were women doing code breaking too. Similarly, the original wave of programmers were women. Programming was considered “woman’s work” because it involved typing, and the code breakers were doing the filing and cross referencing, both originating with the idea of secretarial work. As soon as the two fields became more prestigious or had actual responsibility though they were quickly recategorised as men’s work

  4. CottonEyeJoe1603

    Didn’t mister Hoover cause a lot of problems that ended up shortening how long you were allowed to serve as director

  5. LeaguePillowFighter

    Hoover sucked so hard

  6. kenacewr

    Unfortunately this has been very common in history. I am always reminded of Beatrice Warde, a typographer and scholar who’s work has gone largely unnoticed.

    Back in the 1920s, Warde discovered that many typefaces named Garamond weren’t actually designed by Claude Garamond. No one would take her seriously at the offices she worked, some even told her to keep it to herself or that she was mistaken. Finally she published the results under a male pseudonym. Finally people took notice and changes were made to re-classify a bunch of typefaces.

    Beatrice Warde helped promote and develop Gill Sans with Eric Gill. Gill Sans is very popularly used in the “Keep Calm” designs, even though in the London Underground the typeface is Johnson Sans, not Gill Sans.

    If you are a designer or interested in graphic design, please give The Crystal Goblet a read. Warde was well ahead of her time and her ideas are still very much relevant today.

  7. angryve

    It really seems like Hoover was a huge prick.

  8. Affectionate_Cut_103

    Probably stole her dresses too

  9. adultagerampage

    J Edgar probably stealing her look too

  10. smallz86

    The amount of power and dirt hoover had on people in power was actually insane. He was FBI director for 37 years!

  11. Mike-The-Pike

    To be fair Hoover took credit for everyone’s work

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