Press Esc to close
Friday 22 May 2015
News updated at 9:00 PM IST
Weather
Max: 31.5°C
Min : 22.8°C
In Bengaluru
Sunny day

Code used by religious dissident cracked

PROVIDENCE (US) , Dec 1, 2012, AP:

Mystery de-coded

The obscure book’s margins are virtually filled with clusters of curious foreign characters — a mysterious shorthand used by 17th century religious dissident Roger Williams.

For centuries the scribbles went undeciphered. But a team of Brown University students has finally cracked the code.

Historians call the now-readable writings the most significant addition to Williams scholarship in a generation or more. Williams is Rhode Island’s founder and best known as the first figure to argue for the principle of the separation of church and state that would later be enshrined in the Bill of Rights.

His coded writings are in the form of notes in the margins of a book at the university’s John Carter Brown Library. The nearly 250-page volume, “An Essay Towards the Reconciling of Differences Among Christians,” was donated in the 1800s and included a handwritten note identifying Williams as the notes' author — though even that was uncertain at first.

A group including former library director Edward Widmer, Williams scholar and Rhode Island College history professor emeritus J Stanley Lemons and others at Brown started trying to unravel the so-called  “Mystery Book” a few years ago. But the most intense work began this year after the university opened up the challenge to undergraduates, several of whom launched an independent project.

“No one had ever looked at it systematically like this in generations,” Widmer said. “I think people probably looked at it and shrugged.”

Senior math major Lucas Mason-Brown, who has done the majority of the decoding, said his first instinct was to develop a statistical tool. The 21-year-old from Belmont, Mass., used frequency analysis, which looks at the frequency of letters or groups of letters in a text, but initially didn't get far.

He picked up critical clues after learning Williams had been trained in shorthand as a court stenographer in London, and built his own proprietary shorthand off an existing system. Mason-Brown refined his analysis and came up with a rough key. Williams’ system consisted of 28 symbols that stand for a combination of English letters or sounds.


Go to Top

Photo Gallery
Guru Arjun Devji's martyrdom day...

Guru Arjun Devji's martyrdom day...

People admire at a part of bronze statue of Lachit Borphukan...

People admire at a part of bronze statue of Lachit Borphukan...

Youths pelt stones at the police during a protest...

Youths pelt stones at the police during a protest...

Students celebrate their success in the West Bengal...

Students celebrate their success in the West Bengal...

Young girls shelter under an umbrella during heavy rains...

Young girls shelter under an umbrella during heavy rains...

Kashmiri Muslims cry and pray upon seeing a relic of Prophet Mohammed...

Kashmiri Muslims cry and pray upon seeing a relic of Prophet Mohammed...

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and Army Chief General Dalbir Singh Suhag...

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and Army Chief General Dalbir Singh Suhag...

Nomads during seasonal migration from Jammu province...

Nomads during seasonal migration from Jammu province...

Bollywood actors Lauren Gottlieb, left, and Jackky Bhagnani...

Bollywood actors Lauren Gottlieb, left, and Jackky Bhagnani...

Irate mob torch a truck after it killed a man...

Irate mob torch a truck after it killed a man...

Copyright 2014, The Printers (Mysore) Private Ltd., 75, M.G Road, Post Box 5331, Bengaluru - 560001
Tel: +91 (80) 25880000 Fax No. +91 (80) 25880523