Coderbreaker to be celebrated in centenary exhibition in Milton Keynes

Bill Tutte in 1950 (Courtesy of Richard Youlden); the Lorenz system
Bill Tutte in 1950 (Courtesy of Richard Youlden); the Lorenz system

Bletchley Park is to celebrate the centenary of Bill Tutte’s birth with a new exhibition about the elite Codebreaker.

The display will open on May 14 with the Bill Tutte Centenary Symposium, a series of lectures exploring the life and works of the renowned mathematician.

Tutte, a Cambridge graduate from Newmarket, made an often overlooked achievement in unravelling the working of the Lorenz machine, a more complex system than Enigma that was used by the German high command.

He then devised a statistical method of breaking the code, allowing Bletchley Park to decode some of the most top-secret messages sent during the war and paving the way for the creation of Colossus, the world’s first semi-programmable electronic computer.

After the war, Tutte’s work in graph theory led to some of the key mathematical developments that have shaped the internet today, such as the science behind search engines.

“As with many of his wartime colleagues, Bill Tutte’s impact at Bletchley Park during the Second World War is equal to the importance of his legacy to mathematics and computing today,” says Iain Standen, CEO of the Bletchley Park Trust.

“We are delighted to be marking the centenary of his birth with a series of lectures on his life and work, at the Bill Tutte Centenary Symposium, here in the Mansion.

“This also marks the opening of a new exhibition - ‘Bill Tutte: Mathematician + Codebreaker’ - that will give our visitors the chance to find out about his remarkable achievements.”

Tutte’s successes were on a par with those of Alan Turing, who received an OBE for his wartime work, yet Tutte was granted no recognition from the Government during his lifetime.

After leaving Bletchley Park he was appointed a Fellow at Trinity College, Cambridge, before emigrating to Canada, where he became a renowned mathematician and professor at Waterloo University, near Toronto. He died on May 2, 2002, aged 84.