Saturday, May 12, 2012

Hedy's Folly

Hedy's Folly: The Life and Breakthrough Inventions of Hedy Lamarr, the Most Beautiful Woman in the WorldHedy's Folly: The Life and Breakthrough Inventions of Hedy Lamarr, the Most Beautiful Woman in the World by Richard Rhodes

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

More than any other aspect of this book, I enjoyed learning about how the "most beautiful woman in the world" decided she would contribute to the WWII war effort -- beyond working at the Hollywood Canteen and selling war bonds (not that she wasn't wildly successful at both of those efforts, too).

Teaming up with an avant-garde musician named George Antheil, Hedy Lamarr designed a frequency-hopping guidance system for torpedoes. Coming from an intellectually stimulating environment in Vienna between the First and Second World Wars, it seems Hedy was rather bored with Hollywood and spent many evenings alone, inventing at her drafting table. Author Richard Rhodes also covers Hedy's other inventions, including a kind of bouillon cube that when dropped into a glass of water created instant soda pop. She got funding for that idea from Howard Hughes!

It's a good thing for us that Hedy was bored in Hollywood: while the US Navy never used her invention in their torpedoes, her frequency-hopping technology is the basis for the wireless communication that we are so enthralled with today.

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