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NSA Historical Figures

Dr. William Blankinship

2005 Hall of Honor Inductee

Dr. William A. Blankinship performed pioneering research in mathematical applications to cryptography and was a pioneer in computer programming. Most notably, he formulated a broad cryptanalytic theory that provided the foundations for an entire branch of cryptanalysis. He was also an exemplary teacher and mentor who inspired a generation of cryptomathematicians.

Dr. Blankinship earned his bachelor's degree in mathematics from the University of Virginia in 1941, and a doctorate in the same subject from Princeton in 1949. From 1943-44, he was an instructor at the University of Illinois. A Navy officer in the late 1940s and early 1950s, Dr. Blankinship distinguished himself in mathematical research and was chief of cryptanalysis at a Navy field station.

After joining NSA as a civilian in 1954, he served in a variety of positions related to cryptanalytic research, software, and information processing. He developed and taught the first version of a class that remains a core course in the cryptanalysis curriculum. An early champion of special-purpose computing devices, by the 1970s he was the Chief Scientist for the Office of Research. Dr. Blankinship was also a frequent contributor to NSA's "Technical Journal," a now defunct professional journal. His programs and projects played a central role in shaping the design of modern U.S. cryptography.

Dr. Blankinship retired from NSA in 1979 and passed away in June 1998.