I’m currently reading "The Code Book" By Simon Singh. It’s fascinating to read the back-story of the cryptographic algorithms I learned in graduate school.
“…the way to get to the top of the heap in terms of developing original research is to be a fool, because only fools keep trying. You have idea number 1, you get excited, and it flops. The you have idea number 2, you get excited, and it flops. Then you have idea number 99, you get excited, and it flops. Only a fool would be excited by the 100th idea, but it might take 100 ideas before one really pays off. Unless you’re foolish enough to be continually excited, you won’t have the motivation, you won’t have the energy to carry it through. God rewards fools.”
– Martin Hellman, quoted in The Code Book, p. 256
Whitfield Diffie and Martin Hellman, together with Ralph Merkle, developed what is considered by most to be the most significant cryptographic contribution of the modern era. They developed a method by which the key for encrypting information can be exchanged over a public channel. This breakthrough provides the means by which we use the public internet for private communication.
Want to know more? You should take my Cryptography and Personal Security class this spring.