• Oct 20, 1878
    (b.) -
    May 13, 1929


A German electrical engineer who patented an invention for a mechanical cipher machine, later sold as the Enigma machine. He was born in Frankfurt am Main and studied electricity at the Technical College in Munich, and then went on to study at the Technical College in Hanover, finishing in March 1903. The next year, he completed a dissertation titled, "Proposal for the Construction of an Indirect Water Turbine Governor", and was awarded a Doctorate in engineering (Dr.-Ing.). He subsequently worked for a number of electrical firms in Germany and Switzerland. In 1918, he founded the firm of Scherbius & Ritter. He made a number of inventions, e.g. asynchronous motors, electric pillows and ceramic heating parts; his research contributions led to his name being associated with the Scherbius principle for asynchrous motors. He applied for a patent (filed 23 February 1918) for a cipher machine based on rotating wired wheels, what is now known as a rotor machine. His company also purchased the rights to another patent for a rotor machine from Hugo Koch—patented in 1919. Business was slow enough that the firm was reorganized at least twice in the 1920s. The firm's cipher machine, marketed under the name "Enigma", was initially pitched at the commercial market. There were several commercial models, and one of them was adopted by the German Navy (in a modified version) in 1926. The German Army adopted the same machine (also in a modified version somewhat different from the Navy's) a few years later. He saw none of this as he was killed in a horse carriage accident in 1929. In “Turing’s Cathedral” by George Dyson it is noted that “…a cryptographic machine had been invented by the German electrical engineer Arthur Scherbius, who proposed it to the German navy, an offer that was declined. Scherbius then founded the Chiffriermaschinen Aktiengesellschaft to manufacture the machine, under the brand name Enigma, for enciphering commercial communications, such as transfers between banks. The German navy changed its mind and adopted a modified version of the Enigma machine in 1926, followed by the German army in 1928, and the German air force in 1935.”
  • Date of Birth:

    Oct 20, 1878
  • Date of Death:

    May 13, 1929
  • Gender:

  • Noted For:

    Invented the cryptographic machine Enigma; and then founded the company to manufacture it; a machine which would encipher commercial communications, such as transfers between banks; later used by the German Navy, followed by the German Army, and then the German Air Force
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