By Roger Davies / 19 November 2013 / Other

Now, more about Bacon’s cipher. One of the really interesting things about Bacon’s cipher is its relationship to binary number systems – “binary code”. If you take the classic Bacon cipher like this:

a   AAAAA   g     AABBA   n    ABBAA    t     BAABA

b   AAAAB   h     AABBB   o    ABBAB    u-v   BAABB

c   AAABA   i-j   ABAAA    p    ABBBA    w     BABAA

d   AAABB   k     ABAAB   q    ABBBB     x     BABAB

e   AABAA   l     ABABA     r    BAAAA     y     BABBA

f   AABAB   m     ABABB   s    BAAAB     z     BABBB

Rather than “A”s and “B”s, we already know that Bacon’s code can be represented by any two unlike things, such as bold and normal text, black and white, looking at the camera or not looking at the camera, up and down… So why not off and on or ‘zeros’ and ‘ones’

So then, the same Bacon cipher can be represented thus:

a   00000  g     00110   n    01100    t     10010

b   00001  h     00111    o    01101    u-v   10011

c   00010   i-j   01000   p    01110   w     10100

d   00011   k     01001   q    01111     x     10101

e   00100   l     01010    r    10000   y     10110

f   00101    m     01011   s    10001   z     10111

In other words and ways this is a numerical progression, in binary from 0 to 23. It’s maybe true that Bacon didn’t recognize it in those terms, but nonetheless, this is a binary cipher if not a numerical system. Bacon had no knowledge of “digital” systems, but when we see this today, it jumps out at you.


So, this deserves some thought. In theory, the Binary number system was only discovered in 1679 by Leibniz, – nearly 100 years after Bacon. Now I’m not suggesting that Bacon had discovered Binary Numbers, but he had discovered binary coding… or had he? There is an interesting parallel in six figure progressions in the ancient Chinese text of I-Ching.

Now, other binary ciphers, invented well after Bacon, include the Morse code.  Morse, however is not a pure progression code, and in part is based on alphabetic frequency. Now there’s an odd connection here. In the early days of the Morse telegraph it had a potential competitor invented by Wheatstone, an English inventor. The simplicity of Morse’s telegraph won out. But Wheatstone was responsible for the “Playfair” cipher used as a code by the military for over a hundred years. More on that later.

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