Professor of Computer Science John Dooley published his third book, which explores cryptology and history, this month.
His book, “Codes, Ciphers and Spies: Tales of Military Intelligence in World War I,” focuses on the life and work of John Manley, a cryptologist who worked for military intelligence. It tells several stories about both Manley and his adventures with German spies and cracking codes.
“It’s got everything you want, right? its got spies, its got invisible ink, it has codes and cyphers, it has spies that hide codes in their jackets as they’re trying to cross the border, it has all of these guys in Washington huddled over desks trying desperately to decode messages,” Dooley said.
After the war, Manley wrote several articles for magazines about his work, but they were never compiled, nor did anybody write a biography of Manley. Dooley found the articles years ago at the University of Chicago library where Manley taught, and decided that it was about time somebody published them all together.
“Finding the articles was really exciting to me,” Dooley said. “I had a paper published about them in 2014, and at that point I said, ‘It would be nice if somebody wrote the whole thing out.’ And I was kind of lucky because there were no copyright restrictions on them, because unfortunately Dr. Manley is dead and he’s been long enough that his work is in the public domain.”
Half the book is composed of Manley’s writings, annotated by Dooley so they are more understandable for today’s audience. The other half is 12 chapters written by Dooley about the cryptography and ciphers.
“There are technical parts to it since I explain a number of the cryptograms and the codes and I explain how they’re broken, but also, as my wife said, ‘Real people could read this book,’” said Dooley.
Manley was the most important worker in the military intelligence during the war: He decoded the message that caught the first German spy of the war — and the only one who was sentenced to death — Pablo Borsky. He crossed into the United States with a coded message stitched into his sleeve, and Manley and his colleague, Edith Rickert, decoded it together and revealed his identity.
Manley and Rickert also were the leading experts on Chaucer, and collectively wrote a four-volume work on his life and work, “Chaucer Life-Records and the Text of the Canterbury Tales,” very shortly before Manley passed away in 1940.
Dooley spent three years working on the book, but did the bulk of the actual writing while he was on sabbatical this past summer and fall. He sent the book to his publisher on Dec. 1.
Dooley published with Springer, the house that published his last book. An editor was very interested in the idea, and asked Dooley to get the first draft in as soon as possible. After four months of editing, typesetting and formatting, the book is up on Springer’s website.
The 100 year anniversary of the American entry into World War I is next year, and Dooley believes that this makes his book very relevant right now. World War I was the last conflict that involved deciphering codes with paper and pencil. After this conflict, radio communication increased the amount of messages being transferred between armies, and coders had to start using machines to make and decipher the abundance of codes.
Dooley believes that coders such as Manley and Rickert don’t get enough recognition for all the work that they did for the war and hopes that his book will help more people learn about their contributions to history.
He also tells stories about some other spies, such as a female German spy who kept invisible ink imbedded in a scarf that she wore. She was later caught but was never brought to trial after giving evidence against her co-conspirators.
Dooley hopes that his book will appeal to both casual readers and scholars, and perhaps even other researchers who can use the book to find information on Manley. It includes analysis about the ciphers themselves, and how they tie into other fields of studies, such as linguistics and statistics.
“I wanted to make sure that Manley got the credit that he deserved in the war, because there hasn’t been very much written about him. Nobody has ever done a biography of him and there isn’t very much about his war experiences,” he said.