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NSA Historical Figures

Dr. David Kahn

2020 Hall of Honor Inductee

Dr. David Kahn has had a major impact in making cryptologic history an academic field of study – and a popular one – more than any single individual has achieved.

In 1967 Dr. Kahn published The Codebreakers, a comprehensive survey of cryptology from Biblical times to the emergence and growth of NSA.  It drew on both archival research and interviews with American and European pioneers in the field, and today is essential reading for anyone wanting to know the discipline.  Kahn became a prolific author of books and articles on cryptologic history, and was founding editor of the journal Cryptologia.

Dr. Kahn served as Scholar-in-Residence at NSA’s Center for Cryptologic History (CCH) in 1993, which resulted in his landmark biography of Herbert Yardley, entitled The Reader of Gentleman’s Mail.  He spoke at many NSA events during his year with the CCH, and during his interactions with employees, hundreds told him they had first gotten into cryptology because of his writings.

Over his lifetime, Dr. Kahn accumulated a massive personal library of rare materials.  In 2010, he donated these to the National Cryptologic Museum, where they are now a cornerstone of its collections.

A journalist, scholar, and author with a career spanning more than half a century, Dr. David Kahn has done more than any single individual to educate the public, around the world, about the importance of cryptology to international peace and security.