Sunday, March 25, 2012

She was the Brainy Bombshell Beauty from the old movies. In those days a woman couldn’t be sexy and smart. We all remember the Beauty part but little did we know about the Brainy part. There is even a science book writer who wrote a book about her. Hedy Lamarr was the owner of patents on the design of a communicating device that was an early version of frequency hopping that is now used in our wireless phones and GPS devices. Who Knew?
She stared in such classic movies as “Ziegfeld Girl” in 1941, Her looks were so stunning she was called “The most beautiful girl in the world.” In her black and white movies she seethed out sexuality. You know that sexy squinty look from her eyes and an exotic accent to match as in the 1938 movie, “Algiers.” Even her name sounds dark and mysterious. She was Delilah in the 1949 movie “Samson and Delilah.
She shared the screen with hollywood sexy leading men like Clark Gabel in the 1940 film, “Boom Town,” Spencer Tracy in the classic 1940 movie “ I Take This Woman” and even Jimmy Stewart was her man in the 1941, “Come Live With Me.” During World War II she was voted the most desirable pinup. She had a great deal of fame and fortune but did not have that inner satisfaction that she wanted out of life.
Richard Rhodes is a Pulitzer Prize winning author that is known for his scientific book “The Making of the Atomic Bomb” among other books that were best sellers. Then he wrote a book about this screen actress called “Hedy‘s Folly“ ? Why? So out of character for him. He found the intellectual side of Hedy and got into his possession patents of hers on a series of wires and cylinders that formed a “Secret Communication System.”
Specifically she invented a system that can guide a torpedo including technology called frequency hopping so that signals could not be intercepted. So the question remained that what was a hollywood star doing by inventing a piece of electrical engineering? This was a pretty sophisitisicated invention. By day she was the glamorous actress and by night she was the scientific inventing engineer.
Her home had a room outfitted with a drafting table installed with the proper lighting, the proper tools and an entire wall filled with engineering reference books. It was a hobby that remained obscured in the shadow of her celebrity and one that she rarely revealed even to her own son. He was the product of the third of her six marriages. He remembers that she wanted to stop all the hollywood stuff that she really didn’t enjoy and continue with her inventions.
Some of her inventions did not get much attention but her idea for a radio controlled torpedo got her a patent. Remember it was 1940 when German U Boats were occupying the Atlantic Ocean. They were torpedoing ships that were also having woman and children on civilian vessels that had people fleeing the Nazis. She was born to Jewish parents in Austria. She fled her homeland and arrived in hollywood.
It was on the boat where she met the movie director Louis B. Meyer who promoted her career. She was already known for her nudity in a racy foreign film called “Ekstase.” where she even showed an orgasmic expression on her face at the right moment of pleasure. Her career took off but she never forgot her true interest that was pretty much ignored, her inventions.
Her idea was new in that she came up with the idea of radio frequencies that were steering a torpedo so it can hop. So, if you can make both the transmitter and the receivor simultaneously jump from frequency to frequency then someone trying to jam the signal wouldn’t know where it was. It was a viable idea and would have worked. At the time the Navy did not take her seriously. They told her use your celebrity to raise money for the war. In essence, just look sexy with Bob Hope’s silly UFO shows.
So she raised millions in war bonds and was dismissed for her brains but praised for her beauty. She quietly faded out of the spotlight as she got older . Today we use frequency hopping , a version of her invention in the wireless phones we use now, GPS ,and most Military communication . She is the hottest inventor I ever heard of and yet nobody ever heard of her as a engineering scientist. Lets give credit to our beautiful and smart girls.

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