William Tutte

Scotsman obituary

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William Tutte, a renowned British-born mathematician who helped to crack Nazi codes during the Second World War, has died in Waterloo, Ontario. Professor emeritus at the University of Waterloo, he was 84.

Tutte was a graduate student in chemistry at Cambridge University in 1941 when his tutor asked him to go to Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire, the legendary organisation of code-breakers.

In the following months, Tutte and a research team at Bletchley Park worked out the design of the top Germany military cipher machine, called Lorenz, which was used in the transmission of high-level intelligence.

British researchers who decoded the famous German Enigma machine had a captured model to work with, but Tutte and his co-workers lacked a machine to study, relying only on messages received.

From that, Tutte's team of code-breakers figured out the machine's structure, developing remarkably complex algorithms, his colleagues said.

"That has been characterised as the greatest intellectual feat in the Second World War," said Dan Younger, a University of Waterloo mathematics professor and a close friend of Tutte.

Tutte's teaching and work as a mathematician garnered him the Order of Canada and numerous other honours, including election to the Royal Society of Canada.

He joined the University of Waterloo in 1962, helping to draw mathematicians to the fledgling school with his reputation.

He retired from the university when he was 65, but he still worked on mathematical theories.

In 1996, he moved back to his hometown of Newmarket, in Suffolk but returned to Waterloo in 2000.

His wife, Dorothea, died in 1994. They had no children.

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