Bletchley Park unveils bust of key codebreaker and mathematician Bill Tutte

The artist, Gabriella Bollob�s, with Iain Standen, Bletchley Park CEO
The artist, Gabriella Bollob�s, with Iain Standen, Bletchley Park CEO

Bletchley Park has honoured the achievements of key codebreaker Bill Tutte by unveiling a bust of the renowned mathematician.

Created by sculptor Gabriella Bollobás, who has donated the artwork to the museum, it sits on display in the exhibition ‘Bill Tutte: Mathematician + Codebreaker’, which opened in April to coincide with the centenary of his birth.

Tutte played a significant role in breaking Lorenz, the cipher that was used by the German High Command, and after World War Two became one of the most eminent mathematicians working in combinatorics and graph theory.

Gabriella Bollobás knew Tutte, who passed away in 2002, through her husband Béla Bollobás, himself a renowned mathematician.

Tutte had sat for the Hungarian artist in his later years, but the new bronze depicts him as a younger man in his 20s, as he would have looked when he worked at Bletchley Park.

“I had only a few photographs to work with but I’m very happy with the piece; I think it catches his introverted nature,” said Gabriella.

“He was a very solitary man. Mathematicians have a very special look, an inward-looking eye, which I discovered some years ago. If I ask directly, they will never sit for me, but they are happy to sit and talk about maths to my husband, so that’s when I work!”

Iain Standen, Bletchley Park CEO, said: “We are delighted to unveil this new acquisition, which perfectly captures the unassuming nature of the young Bill Tutte. As with many of the codebreakers who made such a significant impact during World War Two, Tutte received little acclaim in his lifetime, and we are pleased to bring his achievements to the public in our latest exhibition.”

Bela Bollobás, who studied under Tutte, said the codebreaker would have been grateful for the recognition: “He would have been very pleased in his own quiet way. In my heart I think he felt a little under-appreciated because the field of graph theory was not popular during his lifetime, so he would have been touched that there is such an exhibition for him.”

Visitors can see the bust in the exhibition Bill Tutte: Mathematician + Codebreaker, admission to which is included with entry to Bletchley Park.