Dr. Orville Ward Owen (January 1, 1854 – March 31, 1924) was an American physician, and exponent of the Baconian theory of Shakespeare authorship. Owen claimed to have discovered hidden messages contained in the works of Shakespeare/Bacon. He deciphered these using a device he invented called a "cipher wheel". The alleged discoveries were published in Owen's multi-volume work Sir Francis Bacon's Cipher Story (1893-5).
The method was examined by cryptologists William and Elizebeth Friedman, who conclude that it has no cryptographic validity. (William Friedman and Elizebeth Friedman, The Shakespearian ciphers examined, Cambridge University Press, 1957.) In addition, Dr. Frederick Mann, a close friend of Owen, published a severe critique soon after Owen's book first appeared.
His theories were later developed by his assistant Elizabeth Wells Gallup. Owen's cipher wheel was discovered in a warehouse in Detroit by Virginia Fellows (biographical details ), a later supporter of Owen's theory, who presented it to her publisher.
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