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John M. Manly was an expert in the works of Chaucer and an army intelligence officer specializing in cryptography. He was head of the English department of the University of Chicago from 1898 to 1933, when he retired.
In 1933, Manly assisted the FBI in their investigation of the theft of the Voynich Manuscript. He accompanied agents Yartz and Bieber to Princeton, where the trio attempted to enlist the services of professor Indiana Jones.