I noticed on the Wikipedia article for the Vigenere cipher, that:

The Vigenère (French pronunciation: [viʒnɛːʁ]) cipher has been reinvented many times. The method was originally described by Giovan Battista Bellaso in his 1553 book La cifra del. Sig. Giovan Battista Bellaso; however, the scheme was later misattributed to Blaise de Vigenère in the 19th century, and is now widely known as the "Vigenère cipher".[citation needed]

But, as it says, there is no citation.

Is it commonly known that the Vigenere cipher was first written about by Bellaso? I would be interested in seeing a source for this claim.

  • @Thomas, instead of reposting, just flag the question and one of the moderators can migrate it. That said, I believe Singh's "The Code Book" discusses this in chapter 2. Would it be appropriate to call it the Bellaso cipher, yes, but most people won't be on the same page as you as Vigenere is the common name. – mikeazo Aug 21 '12 at 12:52
  • I asked in history chat what they think, and will migrate tomorrow morning if there is no contrary opinion. – Paŭlo Ebermann Aug 22 '12 at 19:01
  • I don't know if my answer's any good, but it was really enlightening to try. +1 – T.E.D. Aug 24 '12 at 18:19

Hmmm. I find that "citation needed" to be a bit confusing. If it relates to the claim of prior invention, that is cited from La cifra del. Sig. Giovan Battista Bellaso right there, and David Kahn's book The Codebreakers later in the article. So the claim seems to be pretty well attributed to me.

It almost looks like its saying they want a citation for the claim that it "is now widely known as the "Vigenère cipher". I'm not sure how one would cite such a claim, and frankly if you aren't prepared to take its truth as a given, then you shouldn't be reading a wikipedia page for it. (Confused yet?)

If you go look at Bellaso's wikipedia page, it does refer to a disagreement between the two, along with some other people (not Vigenère) taking credit for Ballaso's work.

Twenty-two years later Blaise de Vigenère described another form of autokey using a standard table primed by a single letter [Vigenère, f. 49.], which is more vulnerable than that of Bellaso’s because of its regularity. Obviously by trying as primers all the alphabet letters in turn the cryptogram is solved after a maximum of 20 attempts.

This to me looks like its saying Vigenère's cipher is actually much worse than Bellaso's.

This isn't related to the question, but as someone interested in the history of scientific knowledge, I found this bit at the end very intriguing:

Bellaso challenged his detractors to solve some cryptograms encrypted according to his guidelines. He also furnished the following clue to help the solution of one of them: ‘‘The cryptogram contains the explanation why two balls, one in iron and one in wood, dropped from a high place will fall on the ground at the same time.’’ This is a clear statement of the law of the free-falling bodies forty years before Galileo. Nobody has yet solved the cryptogram, and Bellaso’s demonstration is still unknown.

Wow! That's a cliff-hanger on the order of Fermat's Last Theorem.

| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.