Shakespeare, Bacon, and the NSA

The story of a code-breaking Quaker poet from Indiana who hunted Nazi spies and her role in founding a modern science.

Shakespeare, Bacon, and the NSA
The peculiar story of the history of cryptography


You can check out my slides from BSidesCharm here.

The Book

A lot of this talk was inspired by Jason Fagone's excellent book on Elizebeth's life and influence called The Woman Who Smashed Codes.

I ✨ highly ✨ recommend this book!

Previous Presentations

BSidesCharm 2023


A code-breaking Quaker poet from Indiana who hunted Nazi spies? All right, that sounds like some sort of comic-book superhero. And what is this superhero's origin story? Oh, they just were plucked from a library in Chicago to the secretive lair of an eccentric billionaire to study a secret code in the writings of Shakespeare that talks of a hidden heir to the English crown? Now it *must* be the latest in a series of multiverse-based superhero movies, right?

As always, truth is stranger than fiction, and this is the actual life of Elizebeth Smith Friedman, who had a hand in not only breaking codes during both World Wars but, along with her husband, is credited as a founder of modern cryptology. Elizebeth's extraordinary life can serve as a lesson to all of us about what it takes to change the world. Even a poet can end up founding a science that today backs the entirety of technology and inspire some of the most sophisticated government agencies ever conceived of by humanity.

In this talk, we'll follow Elizebeth's journey, learn the history of cryptography, and apply those lessons to how we should view technology and technologists today.