Ann Mitchell: 19 November 1922 – 11 May 2020.
I don’t think much was made of the passing of Ann Mitchel. Bletchley Park codebreaker who helped change course of World War II dies aged 97.
Even after that movie about Alan Turing, people still don’t seem to understand what an impact Bletchley Park had on WWII.
She played an integral role in bringing about that peace, thanks to her work in Hut 6, a ramshackle wooden structure home to some of Bletchley Park’s brightest minds.
There, for nine hours a day, six days a week, from September 1943 until the final exultant hours of VE Day, the young Oxford graduate would create complex diagrams used to break strings of incomprehensible Enigma code used by the Nazis.
It is interesting that the journalist/editors at The Scotsman choose the term “incomprehensible” for the Enigma codes. I suppose any sufficiently complex Mathematics is indistinguishable from magic, at least to people in journalism. (With apologies to Arthur Clarke.) In reality, they were not incomprehensible; decoding them was exactly what they did at Bletchley Park. (Haven’t they seen that movie?)
Not many women were studying Math at Oxford University in 1940, but that is exactly what Ann Mitchell did, though after the war she would switch to psychology and become a marriage guidance counselor.
Ann was just a kid, but she was discreet, intelligent, and modest, and although she would never describe herself as a codebreaker, she was recruited for her mathematical ability.
The average age of people who worked at Blechley Park and are still alive is now 97; they won’t be with us much longer. One of the reasons the British are still speaking English and not German, is in a very large part to the work done by the folks at Bletchley Park. They helped the French, the Belgians, and the rest as well, defeat the Nazis. (Hat tip to Schneier on Security.)