iPlayer Radio What's New?
Image for Cryptography

Play now 45 mins

Cryptography

Duration:
45 minutes
First broadcast:
Thursday 29 January 2004

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the origins and history of codes. In October 1586, in the forbidding hall of Fotheringhay Castle, Mary Queen of Scots was on trial for her life. Accused of treason and denied legal representation, she sat alone in the shadow of a vast and empty throne belonging to her absent cousin and arch rival Elizabeth I of England. Walsingham, Elizabeth’s Principal Secretary, had already arrested and executed Mary’s fellow conspirators, her only hope lay in the code she had used in all her letters concerning the plot. If her cipher remained unbroken she might yet be saved. Not for the first time the life of an individual and the course of history depended on the arcane art of Cryptography.

What are the origins of this secretive science? And what links the ‘Caesar Cipher’ with the complex algorithms which underpin so much of our modern age?

With Simon Singh, science writer and author of The Code Book: The Secret History of Codes and Code-Breaking; Professor Fred Piper, Director of the Information Security Group at Royal Holloway, University of London and co-author of Cryptography: A Very Short Introduction; Lisa Jardine, Professor of Renaissance Studies at Queen Mary, University of London and author of Ingenious Pursuits.

Broadcasts

Featured in...

  • Science archive

    Scientific principles, theory, and the role of key figures in the advancement of science.

  • Codes and Hacking

    A selection of programmes relating to codes, codebreaking and cyber attack.

  • 16th Century

    Browse the 16th Century era within the In Our Time archive.

In Our Time Downloads

melvyn-bragg.jpg

Every episode of In Our Time - available to download to listen to when & where you want.

Free downloads

  1. Image for In Our Time Archive: Culture

    In Our Time Archive: Culture

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the history of ideas as it applies to culture - from literature…

  2. Image for In Our Time Archive: History

    In Our Time Archive: History

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the people, conflicts and events that have shaped the world.

  3. Image for In Our Time Archive: Philosophy

    In Our Time Archive: Philosophy

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the history of philosophy - from ancient Greek thinkers to the…

  4. Image for In Our Time Archive: Religion

    In Our Time Archive: Religion

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the history of religious ideas - from the faith systems of…

  5. Image for In Our Time Archive: Science

    In Our Time Archive: Science

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the history of ideas and the evolution of the sciences - from…

  6. Image for In Our Time With Melvyn Bragg

    In Our Time With Melvyn Bragg

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the history of ideas - including topics drawn from philosophy,…

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.