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

3.4 out of 5 stars 121 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, December 2011: Hedwig (Hedy) Kiesler may be one of the greatest unsung heroes of twentieth century technological progress. An opportunistic Austrian immigrant driven by curiosity and a desire to make it as a Hollywood actress in the early years of World War II, Hedy worked with avant-garde composer George Antheil to create the technology that we depend upon today for cell phones and GPS: frequency hopping. Though Richard Rhodes presents details about everyone involved in the separate experiences that the two inventors drew upon to make their breakthrough in Hedy’s Folly, the invention itself takes center stage, driving the remarkable story with precision. Rhodes skillfully weaves together all the disparate parts of the story, from how Hedy learned about Nazi torpedoes to why George’s knowledge of player pianos was key to the invention, in order to create a highly readable genesis of the technology that influences billions of lives every day. --Malissa Kent

Review

Praise for Richard Rhodes’s Hedy’s Folly:

"Fascinating. . . . mixes thorough techno research with Hollywood glam. . . . Rhodes drops quite a bombshell."--USA Today
 
"A smart, strange and fascinating book."--Washington Post
 
"It's to Mr. Rhodes's credit that he gently makes this implausible story plausible."--New York Times
 
"Unveils the inquisitive brain behind the beauty.... [It] reads at turns like a romance novel, patent law primer, noir narrative and exercise in forensic psychology.” —Los Angeles Times
 
"Rhodes's talent is making the scientifically complex accessible to the proverbial lay reader with clarity and without dumbing down the essentials of his topics."--The New York Times Book Review
 
"[A] charming and remarkably seamless book."—Salon
 
"Fascinating . . . shows Hedy Lamarr to have been a secret weapon in more ways than one."—Newsweek
 
"Richard Rhodes is the perfect historian to describe the abilities of Hedy Lamarr and George Antheil as scientists and inventors."--Larry McMurtry, Harper's Magazine
 
"Richard Rhodes's book should be celebrated: he shows that even in the "information" age, there is a way to write about an American movie star that gives readers something new."--The New Republic
 
"Hedy Lamarr, glamorous Hollywood star. Hedy Lamarr, glamorous genius inventor.
That's the gist of Richard Rhodes' Hedy's Folly . . .  although, of course, it's far more complicated than that. And far more fascinating."—Philadelphia Inquirer
 
"Hedy's Folly is a reminder that neither time nor gravity can diminish the allure of a beautiful mind."--Bloomberg Business Week
 
"Rhodes, who has written about everything from atomic power to sex to John James Audubon, is apparently incapable of writing a bad book and most of what he does is absolutely superior."--The Daily Beast
 
"A riveting narrative, propelled by the ambition and idiosyncrasies of the inventors at its core."--Science News
 
"[A]n unusual and worthwhile read."—Washington Times
 
"[C]aptivating."—Boston Globe
 
"A focused glimpse into one actress’ remarkable life, and the rare mix of war, patriotism and intellect that fomented her unlikely invention."—Dallas Morning News
 
"Rhodes...manages to capture the sheer improbability of these unlikely Edisons."—Entertainment Weekly
 
"Rhodes puts Lamarr’s inventive spirit into coherent context.... [His] book gives us the whole Hedy — a closet geek in peacock feathers — and makes that mix believable."— Nature
 
"Riveting. . . . There’s enough technical and military history here to keep Rhodes’s hard-core fan base satisfied. But the cultural history is just as interesting, and Rhodes tells both stories with a sure and supple hand."—The New York Observer 
 


Product Details

  • File Size: 5603 KB
  • Print Length: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (November 29, 2011)
  • Publication Date: November 29, 2011
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004QZ9ZP6
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #255,591 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Ash Jogalekar TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE 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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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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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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