Club learns about codebreaker Friedman


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The Six and Twenty club met Feb. 7 at the lovely home of hostess Karen Buckley.

Program leader for the day was Judy Kay Johnston, who briefly talked about the book she is circulating, “The Woman Who Smashed Codes: A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine Who Outwitted America’s Enemies”, by Jason Fagone. Elizabeth Friedman helped catch gangsters and smugglers, exposed a Nazi spy ring in South America and cracked codes of multiple enigma machines.

She and her husband, William, were in many ways the Adam and Eve of the National Security Agency.

For her program Mrs. Johnston focused on another code extremely difficult to break, Egyptian Hieroglyphics. She chronicled both ancient and more modern attempts to understand hieroglyphics which held all the secrets of ancient Egypt – its history, its literature, its religious beliefs, its culture.

It wasn’t until the discovery of the Rosetta Stone by Napoleon’s army that breakthroughs were made. One such breakthrough came from Frenchman, Jean-Francois Champollion, who worked out that the complex system of hieroglyphs was “symbolic and phonetic in the same text, the same phrase, and even the same word.”

For refreshments, Ms. Buckley served her traditional and delicious chocolate cheesecake.

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