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William F. Friedman was introduced to the question of the authorship of the works of Shakespeare, and to the field of cryptography itself, while working as the director of the department of genetics at Riverbank Laboratories. Shortly thereafter, Elizebeth Smith arrived at Riverbank to work in the Department of Cryptography on the question of Shakespeare authorship. Both William and Elizebeth shared the opinion that the method employed by Elizabeth Wells Gallup, the director of the Department of Cryptography at Riverbank Laboratories, to reach the conclusion that the works of Shakespeare were written by Francis Bacon was questionable.
The Friedmans continued to study the question of the authorship of Shakespeare for the rest of their careers. Through logic and systematic analysis the Friedmans were able to disprove theories claiming that codes appear in Shakespearian text. The Friedman’s rigorous assessment of the works of Shakespeare did not detect a valid code system, which led them to conclude that the text did not contain any codes. Their findings were initially published under the title “The Cryptologist Looks at Shakespeare” which received the Folger Shakespeare Library Award in 1955. The Friedmans’ work was then published as a book in 1957 under the title The Shakespearian Ciphers Examined, and the following year they won the fifth annual award of the Shakespeare Festival Theater and Academy.