City News Service reports that the 18th Century doc was found in East Berlin after the Cold War. Computer scientist Kevin Knight's team at Viterbi School of Engineering unlocked the ancient patterns used by the strange Eyeball Society that was deep into eye surgery and ophthalmology -- in the 1700s. Sounds painful.
According to City News Service:
``This opens up a window for people who study the history of ideas and
the history of secret societies,'' Knight said.
``Historians believe that secret societies have had a role in revolutions, but all that is yet to be worked out, and a big part of the reason is because so many documents are enciphered."
And that's fascinating because the 18th Century was known as the Enlightenment, when the French and American revolutions shook the world and philosophy and science got a major foothold in Europe.
The Brits started the Industrial Revolution in 1750 by inventing the steam engine, and parts of Austria and Germany were political, philosphical and scientific hotbeds challenging the old ways.
The USC team tried using some 80 languages to decipher the code, but Knight says, ``It took quite a long time and resulted in complete failure," Knight said.
In fact, the possibilities with a new code are nearly infinite, so the team turned to the computer to do the "grunt work," he says.