Lecture separates fact and fiction in story of the Enigma Machine

MIDDLEBURY — What’s fact and what’s fiction in the recent Oscar-winning film “The Imitation Game” about Alan Turing and the effort to crack German codes in World War II? Why was the real Turing an even more interesting character than the one Benedict Cumberbatch portrays? What does a real Enigma machine look like and how does it work?
Tom Perera, one of the world’s leading experts on cipher machines, will address these questions in a lecture, “The Real Story of ‘The Imitation Game’ and the Enigma of Alan Turing,” at 5:45 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 21, in Middlebury College’s Dana Auditorium. The Hirschfield Series will present the film at 3 and 8 p.m. that day. Perera’s talk will take place between the two screenings. There will be an opportunity to see a fully restored Enigma machine in action as well. The film and lecture are free and open to the public.
Perera, now a local resident, is the author of “Inside ENIGMA: The Secrets of the Enigma and other Historic Cipher Machines” and founder of the Enigma Museum. He has been collecting, restoring and preserving antique scientific cipher and telegraph instruments for more than six decades. His deep knowledge and insight into the development and use of clandestine communication systems in wartime Europe, along with his enthusiastic presentation style, make him a frequent invited speaker at national and international conferences.
An emeritus professor of psychology and neuroscience at Columbia, Barnard and Montclair, Perera obtained his undergraduate and graduate degrees at Columbia University and did extensive research in psychophysiology, psychophysics and experimental psychology with a particular interest in the electrical coding strategies in the human brain.
Upon retirement after 35 years of university teaching, Perera intensified his research into the history, technology and deciphering of Enigma cipher machines. He makes frequent trips abroad to locate, document and retrieve Enigma machines and to record the oral histories of Enigma operators.
A seasoned scuba diver, Perera has been involved with dives resulting in the underwater discovery and recovery of various artifacts including an Enigma machine that had been intentionally discarded by retreating German forces in World War II as well as segments of the original undersea telegraph cable from the United States to Cuba.

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