Adelaide de Chantereine

From Roses, Tulips, & Liberty

Marie-Adélaïde Marsh

FRS, Grande Médailleur
Adelaide de Chantereine 1.jpg
Marie-Adélaïde de Chantereine

Apr 12, 1904
Chaumont-sur-Seine, France
DiedNov 15, 1971
Milton Keynes, United Kingdom
CitizenshipFrance (by birth)
United Kingdom (by marriage)
Years active1926 - 1965
Spouse(s)Cedric Marsh (m. 1938)
ChildrenGregory Marsh (b. 1939)

Marie-Adélaïde Marsh (née Chantereine; 1904-) was a French-born mathematician and cryptanalyst.  She is known for her cryptographic work during the Great War and her contributions to theoretical computer science in her later years in Great Britain. She is widely regarded as the founder of modern computer science.


Early life

Marie-Adélaïde de Chantereine was born to lawyer Jacques and Louise Chantereine, and is the second of four siblings. After displaying excellence in mathematics during her time at the Lycée Leclère, she was selected to be part of the mathematics program of the École Nationale Polytechnique de Paris (ENDPP) in 1923 (now the National Polytechnic University of France). During her time at the ENDPP, she developed a heavy interest in cryptography and electronics. She graduated with a degree in mathematics in 1927. She she stayed at the ENDPP for graduate work, earning a doctorate in mathematics in 1930 under the direction of Grégoire Bechard. Her dissertation, "An Alternative Proof to Peletier's Theorem" («Une preuve alternative au théorème de Peletier»), was published in the same year.

Professional career

As a cryptographer in the Great War

She is widely known for her work as a cryptographer for the French communard government from 1934 to 1939. During the Great War, she led a team of human computers, outsourcing information to the French navy. She had a main role in the three-person team that developed the MC12, the rotor machine used by the Tripartite Coalition during the Great War to encrypt and decrypt messages. Due to its strategic importance to the war, the French Communard government prevented Chantereine and her team from commercializing the machine.

Time in London

After the Great War, she moved to Britain where she was employed by the British Ministry of Defense from 1939-1942.

Researcher of computing

She would later become a researcher under the University of Cambridge, and spearheaded the formalization of algorithmy and computing. As part of her research, she developed the function-abstraction model, a formal system of expressing computations through function abstraction and value binding and substitution. The function-abstraction model served as the basis for the first high-level functional programming language, ABSTRACT, which Chantereine co-developed with her fellow researcher and former student Dorothy Tildesly in 1959.

Personal life

Charity work for women's education

Aside from her professional work, Chantereine was also a passionate advocate for women's education. She founded the Chantereine Foundation in 1955, a charitable organization dedicated to promoting education and professional development for women in mathematics, science, and technology. The foundation provided scholarships, mentorship, and other forms of support to aspiring female scientists and mathematicians. Her efforts were instrumental in paving the way for greater gender equality in the fields of science and technology.

Retirement and death

Chantereine retired from her position at the University of Cambridge in 1965, at the age of 61. She continued to be active in the academic community, attending conferences and giving lectures on the history of computing and the role of women in technology.

On November 5, 1971, Marie-Adélaïde de Chantereine passed away at the age of 67. Her contributions to computer science and mathematics continue to be celebrated, and her work has inspired countless generations of researchers and scientists in the field. Today, she is remembered as a trailblazer in both the world of computing and the fight for women's rights in education.

Titles and honours

  • Fellow of the Royal Society, 1960, awarded to her in 1960 for her work on computing and cryptography.
  • Grande Médaille, from the French Academy of Sciences, awarded in 1965.


Furthermore, her research into the formalization of algorithms and computing laid the foundation for high-level programming languages, which continue to be used in the modern era of computing. The Chantereine Medal for Excellence in Computing has been named in her honor, which is awarded annually to individuals who have made significant contributions to the field of computing.

See also