Sunday, November 27, 2011

Hedy Lamarr helped invent GPS, WI-FI, and a homing torpedo



Wikipedia:

In 10 August 1933, aged 19, she married Friedrich Mandl, a Vienna-based arms manufacturer 13 years her senior. . . . Mandl prevented her from pursuing her acting career, and instead took her to meetings with technicians and business partners. In these meetings, the mathematically talented Lamarr learned about military technology. Otherwise she had to stay at their castle home, Schloss Schwarzenau. She later related that, although Mandl was part-Jewish, he consorted with Nazi industrialists. In Ecstasy and Me, Lamarr wrote that Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler attended Mandl's grand parties. She related that in 1937 she disguised herself as one of her maids and fled to Paris, where she obtained a divorce, and then moved to London. According to another version of the episode, she persuaded Mandl to allow her to attend a party wearing all her expensive jewelry, later drugged him with the help of her maid, and made her escape out of the country with the jewelry.
Newsweek:
In 1940, while acting alongside Jimmy Stewart and Judy Garland in the MGM musical Ziegfeld Girl, the 26-year-old Lamarr spent her free time devising a radio-controlled submarine missile-guidance system to help the U.S. Navy in World War II. What moved her to do this? “She didn’t drink and she didn’t like to party, so she took up inventing,” Rhodes explains. Of course, there was more to it than that. The torpedo was not the starlet’s only invention: she also came up with an antiaircraft shell with a proximity fuse, and a fizzing cube that could turn a plain glass of water into soda.
There's a new book called Hedy's Folly: The Life and Breakthrough Inventions of Hedy Lamarr, the Most Beautiful Woman in the World


What do Hedy Lamarr, avant-garde composer George Antheil, and your cell phone have in common? The answer is spread-spectrum radio: a revolutionary inven­tion based on the rapid switching of communications sig­nals among a spread of different frequencies. Without this technology, we would not have the digital comforts that we take for granted today.

Only a writer of Richard Rhodes’s caliber could do justice to this remarkable story. Unhappily married to a Nazi arms dealer, Lamarr fled to America at the start of World War II; she brought with her not only her theatrical talent but also a gift for technical innovation. An introduction to Antheil at a Hollywood dinner table culminated in a U.S. patent for a jam- proof radio guidance system for torpedoes—the unlikely duo’s gift to the U.S. war effort.

What other book brings together 1920s Paris, player pianos, Nazi weaponry, and digital wireless into one satisfying whole? In its juxtaposition of Hollywood glamour with the reality of a brutal war, Hedy’s Folly is a riveting book about unlikely amateur inventors collaborating to change the world.
Preorder for 40% off at Amazon.

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