Biography of William T. Tutte

As a young mathematician and codebreaker, William T. Tutte deciphered a series of German military encryption codes and made an unsurpassed contribution to the success of the British wartime assault on enemy codes and ciphers at Bletchley Park.

Tutte was born May 14, 1917 at Fitzroy House in Newmarket, England. His father was the House gardener and his mother the caretaker. From a young age, he excelled in his studies, entering the Cambridge and County High School for Boys at the age of eleven. From there, he entered Trinity College, Cambridge where he studied chemistry and was actively involved in the Trinity Mathematical Society.

In 1941, upon invitation of his tutor, Tutte went to Bletchley Park- the World War II organization of code-breakers in Britain. It was there that he uncovered the structure of the encryption machines which generated a code known as "Fish", solely by observing the machine generated obscuring string and encrypted messages that were intercepted. His work enabled Britain to break these codes regularly throughout the remainder of the War.

Tutte returned to academia and went on to create a ground-breaking Ph.D. thesis in "Algebraic Theory of Graphs" (work for which he is internationally renowned), and spent the following 14 years as a professor with the Faculty of Mathematics at the University of Toronto.

Tutte moved to the University of Waterloo shortly after its opening and was instrumental in the creation of the Faculty of Mathematics as well as in establishing the identity and reputation for the new university. During his lengthy and accomplished career, Tutte was awarded the Tory Medal by the Royal Society in 1975, the Killam Prize in 1982, the CRC-Fields Institute Prize in 2001, and was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and as a Fellow of the Royal Society. He was also inducted as an Officer in the Order of Canada in 2001 shortly before his passing in 2002.