Former Mason Math Professor Honored by NSA

Posted: January 28, 2011 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: January 27, 2011 at 6:15 pm

By Dave Andrews

The National Security Agency (NSA) pays tribute today to the late Genevieve Grotjan Feinstein, a former Mason math professor, for her significant research in the field of cryptology during World War II. Feinstein, who passed away in 2006 at the age of 93, will receive a place in the NSA’s Hall of Honor.

NSA's Hall of Honor. Photo from Wikipedia Commons

Feinstein will be one of four inductees during the ceremony, which will be held at the National Cryptologic Museum at NSA headquarters in Fort Meade, Md.

In September 1940, as an employee of the Signal Intelligence Service (SIS) — which was the U.S. Army’s code-breaking division — Feinstein made her biggest discovery in breaking a critical Japanese code. Her findings enabled the SIS and U.S. Navy to build a machine that decrypted critical messages sent between Japanese units. For this achievement, she was awarded the Exceptional Civilian Service Award in 1946.

Feinstein initially intended to become a math teacher, but ultimately she took a series of tests to become a professional government mathematician. She was quickly offered a job with the SIS, where she was involved with many significant cryptanalytic projects involving Japan and the Soviet Union.

Feinstein was married to former Mason chemistry professor Hyman Feinstein, also deceased. In 2007, a $1 million bequest from Genevieve Feinstein’s estate established the Ellis F. Feinstein Scholarship Endowment in memory of the Feinsteins’ son.

The NSA created the Hall of Honor in 1999 to acknowledge those who “rendered distinguished service to American cryptology” and “made major contributions to the structure and processes of American cryptology.” Currently, only 51 inductees have received this honor.

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