Thomas Jefferson’s been on my mind and in the news lately. Today, there was a fascinating article about Jefferson and the breaking of an unbreakable cipher in the Wall Street Journal — Two Centuries On, a Cryptologist Cracks a Presidential Code. Rachel Emma Silverman. Wall Street Journal, Thursday July 2, 2009. Don’t miss the interactive graphics that describes the mysterious cipher sent to Jefferson by his friend Robert Patterson, a mathematics professor at the University of Pennsylvania and how the cipher was finally broken 200+ years later by Lawren Smithline, a mathematician who works with cryptology, or code-breaking, at the Center for Communications Research in Princeton, N.J., a division of the Institute for Defense Analyses.
This article comes on the heels of a June 25 NY Times pictorial thought-piece on Thomas Jefferson by Maira Kalman called “Time Wastes Too Fast”. That there are over 900 comments is testament to both the power of Jefferson’s life and Kalman’s words and drawings.
Last but not least, I just finished David Post’s truly mind-blowing book, “In Search of Jefferson’s Moose: Notes on the State of Cyberspace.” Post’s book is a juxtaposition between Jefferson’s intrigue with large ungulates, the description and mapping of the natural world, and the state and natural history of the internet. Yes I know it sounds bizarre, but Post pulls of the juxtaposition expertly. I highly recommend this book.