[an error occurred while processing this directive]
In comparison to more boisterous cryptologists that enjoyed the public eye and strolled in the spotlight, William Frederick Friedman was a far less obvious public figure. He was a conservative gentleman interested in the quality of the work, not the presentation. His writings are clear, concise, and brilliant. Friedman's theoretical contributions to the study of cryptology are of themselves amazing - not to mention that while writing papers he also served for many years in the military cryptanalytic bureau solving ciphers and teaching future cryptanalysists. William Friedman, humble and introverted, is a giant in the field of cryptology whose practical and academic accomplishments will perhaps never be matched.
Wolfe Friedman was born on September 24, 1891 in Kishinev, Russia. His father spoke eight languages as an interpreter for the post office, which perhaps contributed to Friedman's great understanding of languages in ciphers. The Friedmans emigrated to America in 1892 and settled in Pittsburgh. During his high school years he wrote short pieces of science fiction and enjoyed fixing things. After graduation, he began work as chief clerk at one of the numerous iron mills. In 1910, Friedman decided to continue his education and enroll in the Michigan Agricultural College, mainly because tuition was free.
Friedman was not a farmer however, and focused his studies in one of the most abstract and scientific fields of study in agriculture: genetics. He transferred from Michigan Agricultural to Cornell (again, because it was free) and arrived in New York in 1911. After Cornell, Friedman was immediately hired as a geneticist to help improve the grains and livestock of George Fabyan, a wealthy man with a large, rambling estate called Riverbank.
Fabyan, in addition to the estate, also maintained an interest in cryptology. Fabyan had hired a large group of specialists to attempt to decipher secret messages hidden in the many work of Shakespeare. An avid believe of the myth of Francis Bacon's authorship of Shakespeare's works, Fabyan funded a large scale cryptoanalytic effort, also at Riverbank. Friedman took an interest in the cryptology quickly - partly because of one Ms. Elizabeth Smith. Elizabeth Smith, a year younger than Friedman and a native of Indiana, worked as one of Fabyan's cryptanalysists. Whether the girl or the concepts first attracted Friedman to cryptology might never be known, but luckily for the science, he became interested and began studying cryptology.