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Secret History: The Story of Cryptology (Discrete Mathematics and Its Applications) Hardcover – March 25, 2013

ISBN-13: 978-1466561861 ISBN-10: 1466561866 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Series: Discrete Mathematics and Its Applications (Book 76)
  • Hardcover: 620 pages
  • Publisher: Chapman and Hall/CRC; 1 edition (March 25, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1466561866
  • ISBN-13: 978-1466561861
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.2 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #532,151 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Secret History is a highly recommended purchase to be considered by those with a serious interest in both the history and the ‘nuts and bolts’ of modem-day codes and ciphers. lt is both a work of pedagogy, along with its various exercises linked to individual chapters accessible via a linked website, and an interesting and exciting ‘read’ for anyone with a serious interest in the subject of today’s cryptology and its history."
The Cryptogram, 2014

"The book presents a wonderful story of the development of this field. It is written more like a novel than like your traditional textbook, but it contains all the necessary material to also serve as a textbook. In fact, the author has created a companion website that provides sample syllabi and problems if the book is to be used in the classroom. … This book is enjoyable. I would recommend it to anyone interested in learning more about the topic of cryptology. It is especially interesting to someone like me, an algebraist who uses cryptology as a meaningful response to why topics in pure mathematics that do not seem to have obvious applications are still very important to study."
MAA Reviews, August 2014

"Every once and a while a book appears that has a significant impact on the field of cryptologic history. David Kahn’s The Codebreakers and F.L. Bauer’s Decrypted Secrets are two such books. Secret History now joins that collection. … Secret History could be used as a textbook for a general education class that explores the history of cryptology (and ignores many of the mathematical sections) or for an upper-division class for mathematics or computer science majors that follows the historical evolution of cryptology (and pays attention to the mathematical sections). … What would appeal to a general audience is the engaging writing that reflects Bauer’s interest in and enthusiasm for all aspects of cryptology. … Bauer has merged cryptologic history with the mathematical foundations of cryptology in a correct, understandable, and enthusiastic presentation. Secret History is an excellent choice for a historian of cryptology, a teacher of cryptology, or anyone who wants to get a glimpse of cryptology."
—Chris Christensen, Cryptologia

"… one of the most engaging storytelling adventures on the evolution of secret keeping. In the first part of the book, Bauer (York College of Pennsylvania; formerly, scholar-in-residence, National Security Agency) discusses the inception of secret codes in Viking messages and substitution ciphers in the era of Caesar, as well as cryptography in works of fiction such as Edgar Allen Poe’s short story "The Gold Bug." Of course, Bauer also covers the famous Bletchley Park and its enigmatic star, Alan Turing. The second part focuses on current uses of cryptography and ends with a discussion of quantum cryptography. The book will challenge anyone with even a passing interest in cryptography to try to resist developing an intense passion for it. The math behind the systems described, while present, is never obscured by the fascinating setting in which it was developed. This is the way in which cryptography, one of the most difficult applications of discrete mathematics, was meant to be learned, with real-life cloak-and-dagger intrigue. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries."
—T.D. Richardson, CHOICE, Vol. 51, 2013

"… looking at the table of contents it appears EXCELLENT. The field is covered thoroughly and comprehensively and in a very up-to-date manner. It is by far the clearest and most comprehensive of the books dealing with the new cryptology, including of course the classic ciphers and some of the important historical ones such as Enigma and Purple, but also the newer systems such as DES and public-key cryptography. The history seems accurate and the book provides what I was unable to give cryptology—a mathematical underpinning to it all. … All of us in the cryptology community are grateful to you for it."
—David Kahn, historian, and author of The Codebreakers

"There have been plenty of 'light reading' books covering the history and mechanics of cryptology - this isn't one of them. Most focus on light math concepts and/or history - this isn't one of them. Instead, it covers both but provides much more depth and detail, surveying the political side of cryptology's developments, the use of codes in crime, music and literature, and considering how classical cryptology grew from Greek to modern times. It provides close examination of the groundbreaking works of cryptologists and considers specific algorithms and their functions, and it provides charts, graphs and calculations to show exactly how cryptology works. Any with more than a casual interest in the topic will find this a solid reference."
—California Bookwatch, January 2014

About the Author

Craig P. Bauer is an associate professor of mathematics at York College of Pennsylvania and the editor-in-chief of Cryptologia. He was the 2011-2012 Scholar-in-Residence at the National Security Agency (NSA) Center for Cryptologic History, where he wrote several papers for NSA journals, gave a large number of lectures, and made substantial progress on a second book focused on unsolved codes and ciphers. He earned a Ph.D. in mathematics from North Carolina State University.

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Ben Rothke on October 16, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Narrating a compelling and interesting story about cryptography is not an easy endeavor. Many authors have tried and failed miserably; attempting to create better anecdotes about the adventures of Alice and Bob. David Kahn did the best job of it when wrote The Codebreakers: The story of secret writing in 1967 and set the gold standard on the information security narrative. Kahn's book was so provocative and groundbreaking that the US Government originally censored many parts of it.

A lot has changes since 1967, and while Secret History: The Story of Cryptology is not as groundbreaking, it also has no government censorship. With that, the book is fascinating read that provides a combination of cryptographic history and the underlying mathematics behind it.

As a preface; the book has cryptology in its title, which is for the most part synonymous with cryptography. Since cryptography is more commonly used, I'll use it in this review.

Kahn himself wrote that he felt this book is by far the clearest and most comprehensive of the books dealing with the modern era of cryptography including classic ciphers and some of the important historical ones such as Enigma and Purple; but also newer systems such as AES and public-key cryptography.

The book claims that the mathematics detailed in it are accessible requiring minimal mathematical prerequisites. But the reality is that is does require at least a college level understanding, including algebra, calculus and more.

As an aside, nearly every book on encryption and cryptography that claims no advanced mathematical knowledge is needed doesn't meet that claim.
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Format: Hardcover
I bought this book based upon the recommendation from a friend, and I have to say it is a very comprehensive volume. Suffice it to say that if you are interested in secret codes and cryptography, from ancient times to the present, buy this book, you will not be disappointed. Just look at the table of contents; everything related to codes is there.

One reviewer complained about the quality of the paper in the book. My copy is fine, it is a well-bound book of the highest quality.

In the "Note to the reader," the author gives his email address, so you can contact him with comments or questions. I wish all authors would do that.

This book is not inexpensive, but if you are a serious student of cryptography, it is well worth the money.
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By Richard Reeder on November 3, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is about as good as David Kahn's The Codebreakers.
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