Who was Robert J. McEliece and the people behind this Cryptosystem?

BY SHANE JENKINS | 1 min read

We are exploring the boundaries of Cryptography at HeroX in collaboration with the exciting TII McEliece Challenges

In the realm of cryptography, the McEliece cryptosystem stands as a testament to the ingenuity and collaborative efforts of brilliant minds. At its core, this cryptographic scheme is named after its creator, Robert J. McEliece, an American mathematician and electrical engineer whose contributions have left an indelible mark on the field of information security. But additionally, this cryptosystem and the TII McEliece Challenges could not exist without the work of other brilliant researchers, especially Professors Harald Niederreiter and Valery Goppa. Here are some quick reads you can check out to learn more about these brilliant gentlemen.

Robert J. McEliece: The Namesake

Prof. Robert J. McEliece was born in Washington, D.C., on May 21, 1942 and died in Pasadena, California on May 8, 2019. Although Robert McEliece’s death serves as a sobering reminder that a new generation of cryptographers are needed to take up the reins, it has also provided the world with more information about his life as many of his past universities and partners have shared tributes and obituaries. We suggest that you take a look at this tribute article from CalTech, McEliece’s own Alma Mater.

Harald Niederreiter: Number Generation Expertise

Prof. Harald Niederreitier of Vienna, Austria has the privilege of working multiple fields related to mathematics and cryptography. However, perhaps one of the most relevant contributions he made to both the McEliece Cryptosystem and cryptography as a whole is his work in pseudorandom number generation and the actual Niederreiter Scheme. To learn more about Prof. Niederreiter’s past research, we suggest reading this short paper that was by his own colleagues on the occasion of his 70th birthday.

Valery Goppa: The Heart of the Code

Of our three listed contributors, Valery Denisovich Goppa’s biography is perhaps the most unknown due to his living in the Soviet Union/Russia. However, we do have a record of his academic contributions and it should be noted that his code (“Goppa code”) lies at the heart of the McEliece scheme. To learn a little more about Valery Goppa, we suggest checking out this wiki page, where a little bit of his story has been located and translated into English.

Our favorite cryptography project, of course, is still the TII McEliece Challenges and we hope you can crack the instances we have assembled for you! Find more information and compete in the TII McEliece Challenges here.

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