Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2001/01/23/top_wwii_code_cracker_dies/

Top WWII code cracker dies

Leo Marks - special ops and Peeping Tom author

By Lucy Sherriff

Posted in Software, 23rd January 2001 18:07 GMT

Leo Marks, WWII codemaker and codebreaker, and later playwright, has died aged 80.

He was chief cryptographer of Special Operations Executive during WWII, having trained as a cryptographer in Bedford when called up for National Service.

During his training, The Telegraph reports, he cracked a code that was supposed to be a week-long group project, in an evening. This earned him the label "misfit" and got him sent to the Special Operations Executive, rather than Bletchley Park.

One of his achievements during the war was to refine the "one-time-pad." He printed ciphers on silk squares so agents could carry the information more easily across borders. He also stopped the use of well known poems as code keys, replacing them with original works he wrote himself, massively tightening security.

Later in the war he was in charge of devising encryption systems for the SAS and the Free French, among others.

He was born in London on September 24, 1920. He was an only child and spent much of his time with his father in the family bookshop at 84 Charring Cross Road.

There, he became interested in both encryption and horror writing when he was eight, after reading Edgar Allen Poe's "The Gold Bug."

The interest sparked in horror culminated in him writing the film "Peeping Tom," a film so disturbing that it ruined the career of its director.

His obituary appears in full in The Telegraph. ®