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Hedy's Folly: The Life and Breakthrough Inventions of Hedy Lamarr, the Most Beautiful Woman in the World Hardcover

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Product Details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Doubleday; 3rd prt. edition
  • ISBN-10: 0385534396
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385534390
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (112 customer reviews)

More About the Author

Richard Rhodes is the author of 25 works of history, fiction and letters. He's a Kansas native, a father and grandfather. His book The Making of the Atomic Bomb won a Pulitzer Prize in Nonfiction, a National Book Award and a National Book Critics Circle Award. He lectures widely on subjects related to his books, which run the gamut from nuclear history to the story of mad cow disease to a study of how people become violent to a biography of the 19th-century artist John James Audubon. His latest book is Hell and Good Company, about the people and technologies of the Spanish Civil War. His website is

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

156 of 170 people found the following review helpful By A. Jogalekar VINE VOICE on December 1, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Hedy Lamarr was a Hollywood star, considered one of the most beautiful women in the world. She was also an inventor. These two disparate sounding facts would make anyone sit up and take notice. We are fortunate that a writer of the caliber of Richard Rhodes did notice. What he gives us is a fascinating account of Lamarr and her fellow inventor, musician George Antheil, as well as a host of other topics including evocative portraits of 1920s Vienna and Paris, insightful commentary on Hollywood and World War 2 and a crystal clear account of the technical details behind Lamarr and Antheil's key invention- spread-spectrum frequency hopping, a technique which can be used for jam-proof wireless communication in everything from submarine transmission to cell phones.

As is the case with his other commanding works, Rhodes is most adept at creating sharp character portraits of the main protagonists and an evocative recreation of the times that they lived in. He also offers a characteristically lucid account of science and technology reminiscent of the accounts in his landmark "The Making of the Atomic Bomb". Wherever possible he lets the characters speak in their own voices. He starts by describing Hedy's childhood in 1920s Vienna, a city that was a mecca for the arts and a sort of dream world for the young and ambitious. Acting was in Hedy's blood and with the encouragement of a doting father, she never looked back. After starring in a variety of roles, some scandalous for the times, she had the misfortune to marry a charming but opportunistic arms dealer who was cozy with fascists and Nazis and who turned Hedy into a trophy wife trapped in a golden cage.
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79 of 89 people found the following review helpful By James R. Holland VINE VOICE on December 1, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is a page-turner by any definition of the word. It arrived yesterday and I took it to the gym with me this afternoon with the intention of reading it for the hour I spend riding the exercise bike to nowhere. Two and a half hours later, I had to put it aside at the insistence of my leg muscles who made it clear that while I was enthralled with my book, my muscles had a different opinion. After dinner I read more until my eyes were too blurry to continue. This book is more interesting than fiction. In fact, the story might not be believable as fiction. Truth is definitely stranger than fact.
It's amazing that a successful Hollywood Starlet--widely considered the most beautiful woman in the world at the time and who had been married to one of the world's most successful arms dealers could combine her talent for inventing things with the similar talents of George Antheil. He was an avant-garde composer of who had lived in Paris at the beginning of the 20th century, and who had moved to L.A. to compose music for the movie business, but who was also an amateur inventor.The two of them devised a system of radio control based on Antheil's production of his musical piece "Mechanisms." Working in their home workshops they devised and patented a radio controlled torpedo for the U.S. Navy. The technique remained secret for decades but their combined invention eventually resulted in today's wireless cell phones, Bluetooth networks and the various GPS systems. "Most military communications rely on Lamarr and Anthiel's breakthrough."
This is a wonderful and very uplifting true story. I don't know how any reader could fail to be mesmerized by it.
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By David R. Hughes on April 2, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Since I was the individual who Nominated Hedy Lamarr for the Electronic Freedom Foundation Award in 1996 (which she got) and helped in the nomination for the prestigious Austrian Academy of Science award - her native country - which she also received, I was keen to see how accurate and balanced Richard Rhodes account was.

It was excellent and accurate on pages 112-114 where he describes my seminal role.

He was ALSO accurate and informative about 'Scibor Marchocki' ( pages 196-2040) the young Naval Technical Contractor who actually used her Patent in early 1950s to design the Naval 'Sonabuoy' to help detect hostile submarines - the VERY FIRST use of her 'frequency hopping' concept. When an old Scibor in 1996 read about the EFF award I got for her, he emailed me detailed information on when, how, and why he used her patent 50 years earlier. I provided that to Rhodes, who used it to accurately not not only describe the device, but also prove that her patent was actually used earlier than MANY try to claim.

So while I have been sent and seen many publications about her 'invention' Rhodes is both the most complete and accurate of them all.

By the way CBS did a March 4th 2012 8 minute 'Sunday Morning' program about her, the invention, Rhodes, and even her son Anthony. You can access [...]

Oh yeah, I might be a little biased, for when I was 13 years old in 1941, and she was 26 I was in love with her, from her pictures and movies.
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