Nicholas Rescher, Leibniz and Cryptography: An Account on the Occasion of the Initial Exhibition of the Reconstruction of Leibniz’s Cipher Machine [Book Review]

Review of Metaphysics 67 (4):882-884 (2014)
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In Part 1 of this short book, Rescher provides an overview of the nature and source of Leibniz’s interest in the theory and practice of cryptanalysis, including his unsuccessful bid to secure an apprentice for John Wallis (1616-1703) with a view to perpetuating the Englishman’s remarkable deciphering abilities. In Part 2, perhaps the most interesting part of the book, Rescher offers his account of the inner workings of Leibniz’s cipher machine. Part 3 provides a brief pictorial history of such machines and related technologies. Finally, in Part 4 Rescher analyzes some of Leibniz’s own relatively scant attempts at decryption. Though there is little of direct philosophical interest in this work, its account of Leibniz’s forays into the field of encryption and in particular its reconstruction of his remarkable machine are fascinating and should hold considerable appeal for those interested in Leibniz’s pursuits more broadly and in the histories of cryptography and machine design.
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