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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

thoughts on: 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

What we now call spread-spectrum radio, the technology behind cell phones, gps, and a host of other technologies was originally patented by Hedy Lamarr and composer George Antheim.  Then called frequency hopping, Hedy developed the concept hoping the US military would use it in torpedo guidance systems during WWII.  Hedy, an Austrian, despised Nazi Germany and wanted to do whatever she could to help the Allied cause.

Hedy's Folly is poorly subtitled.  Richard Rhodes does share some of Hedy's life, but this is not a biography of the most beautiful girl in the world.  He gives background information on both Hedy and her partner in inventing spread spectrum radio, Antheim, but primarily to show where they acquired the desire, knowledge, and skills to successfully invent and receive a patent for Hedy's idea as well as how they came to work together. Rhodes also explains the science of their invention and the patent process.  A more apt subtitle might have been "How the Most Beautiful Woman of the World Invented the Most Ubiquitous Technology of the 21st Century."

Hedy famously said, "Any girl can be glamorous.  All she has to do is stand still and look stupid."  Hedy's Folly reveals the keen intellect that was ignored for far too long.

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