Gordon Welchman: Bletchley Park’s Architect of Ultra Intelligence
This past exhibition, Gordon Welchman: Bletchley Park’s Architect of Ultra Intelligence and the BBC documentary that accompanied it, revealed the story behind the man whose inventiveness and vision proved invaluable to Bletchley Park’s World War Two codebreaking. A mathematician and lecturer at the University of Cambridge, Welchman was selected as a potential codebreaker before the war began. He had just a short course in cryptography before starting work at Bletchley Park but, despite this limited training, he quickly made his mark.
His contributions to breaking the Enigma codes included adapting Alan Turing’s design for the codebreaking Bombe machine, changing it into a workable machine. He also established Hut 6, leading the team who decrypted more than 1 million German air force and army codes. The exhibition highlighted Welchman’s contributions to the success of Bletchley Park. It also described how his 1982 decision to publish details of WW2 codebreaking in his book, The Hut Six Story, led to Government Communications Headquarters at the time describing him as “a disastrous example to others.” His wartime colleagues could not have thought of Welchman more differently though, describing him in the later 1940s as inspiring, inventive and by one as “one of the most original minds I have ever known.”
After the war ended Welchman continued to be a major influence on the modern world, emigrating to America where he brought the computer age to air traffic control, developed digital computers and taught one of the first ever computing courses.
Both the programme and exhibition were based on Dr Joel Greenberg’s book, Gordon Welchman: Bletchley Park’s Architect of Ultra Intelligence.