WMU News

British code breaker visits WMU to decipher history

March 18, 2002

KALAMAZOO -- A mathematician who served as a World War II code breaker will tell of his experiences when he visits Western Michigan University Friday, March 22.

Dr. Peter Hilton, professor emeritus of mathematics at the State University of New York- Binghamton, will recount his involvement in breaking German codes during World War II in a presentation titled "Breaking High Grade German Ciphers in World War II." His talk, which is free and open to the public, is at 4 p.m. in Room 1104 of Rood Hall.

In his address, Hilton will give accounts of his work in Bletchley Park, Great Britain, with Alan Turning, considered to be one of the founders of computer science. Both Hilton and Turing were on the front lines of deciphering the Enigma and Geheimschreiber code machines used by the Germans. The machines were able to produce hundreds of millions of different scrambled letter combinations to transmit orders, shipping routes or a host of other information about the German Reich.

Hilton also will be on hand Thursday, March 21, to present a joint lecture with Dr. Jean Pederson, professor of mathematics and computer science at Santa Clara University. Hilton and Pederson will describe "The Euler Characteristic and the Descartes Deficiency" at 4 p.m. in Room 6625 of Everett Tower. In their presentation, the pair will focus on one of the great invariants in the history of geometry both from a geometric and algebraic point of view. For the past two decades Hilton and Pederson have collaborated on more than 80 articles and five books. Their newest book, "Mathematical Vistas from a Room with Many Windows," was released in January.

Both events are being presented by WMU's Department of Mathematics, the College of Arts and Sciences, the WMU Chapter of Pi Mu Epsilon, the national mathematics honors society, and is also partially funded by the Student Assessment Fee. For more information, contact the Department of Mathematics at (269) 387-4510.

Media contact: Scott K. Crary, 269 387-8400, scott.crary@wmich.edu

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