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Hedy's Folly: The Life and Breakthrough Inventions of Hedy Lamarr, the Most Beautiful Woman in the World Paperback – Illustrated, August 7, 2012
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Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Rhodes delivers a remarkable story of science history: how a ravishing film star and an avant-garde composer invented spread-spectrum radio, the technology that made wireless phones, GPS systems, and many other devices possible.
Beginning at a Hollywood dinner table, Hedy's Folly tells a wild story of innovation that culminates in U.S. patent number 2,292,387 for a "secret communication system." Along the way Rhodes weaves together Hollywood’s golden era, the history of Vienna, 1920s Paris, weapons design, music, a tutorial on patent law and a brief treatise on transmission technology. Narrated with the rigor and charisma we've come to expect of Rhodes, it is a remarkable narrative adventure about spread-spectrum radio's genesis and unlikely amateur inventors collaborating to change the world.
"The Skylark's Secret" by Fiona Valpy
Loch Ewe, 1940. When gamekeeper’s daughter Flora’s remote highland village finds itself the base for the Royal Navy’s Arctic convoys, life in her close-knit community changes forever. | Learn more
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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
"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
About the Author
- Publisher : Vintage; Reprint edition (August 7, 2012)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 288 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0307742954
- ISBN-13 : 978-0307742957
- Item Weight : 8 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #210,524 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- #475 in Scientist Biographies
- #2,022 in Actor & Entertainer Biographies
- #2,415 in Women's Biographies
- Customer Reviews:
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(1) Comments on inventors, inventions, scientists and science.
From the very start Rhodes makes the case that invention is strange business. An invention must be new, but it must also be fundamentally practical. Are inventions scientific? Surely many inventions stem from scientific discoveries. The laser was a device that embodied the discovery--certain materials, stimulated in a particular way, emit light of the same wavelength--led to the invention of the laser. "That invention is different from fine art or scientific discovery suggests that inventors might be different from artists or scientists." Many inventors may be technically trained. Nicola Telsa, the inventor of radio, was an electrical engineer. However, Thomas Edison was self educated. Scientists could also be inventors. Rhodes knew a Nobel Laureate physicist named Luis Alvarez. He had many inventions that won him a spot in the National Inventor's Hall of Fame, a recognition he valued more than his Nobel Prize.
I have known about a Nobel Prize winner that had connections with my home University of Saskatchewan. This was Gerhard Herzberg who spent 10 years there from 1935 to 1945. Amazon Review 09/24/2011 entitled "Gerhard Herzberg, perhaps the greatest scientist ever." Herzberg taught and guided students in physics. Earle Harrington was the head of this department. He was raised on a farm in Missouri and attended the universities of Missouri, Harvard and Chicago. "He was a confirmed gadgeter, and believed that students from farms made the best physicists because - -- they could construct almost anything with a piece of barbed wire, angle iron and a stick of wood."
(2) Comments on the early life and career of Hedy Lamarr(HL).
The 1940s movie star Hedy Lamarr was an inventor. The PR Department at MGM put out the claim that she was "the most beautiful woman in the world." This publicity however, annoyed her in that few people saw beyond her beauty to her intelligence.
HL invented as a hobby. She didn't drink or party, so "naturally" she took up inventing. He encouraged her interest in how the world works. He was tall, handsome and athletic. He told her stories, read her books and took her on many walks in the Vienna Woods." Her father, a Viennese banker, would explain the mechanics of the machines they saw.
Much later HL conceived of her most important invention between 1939 and Pearl Harbor. She wanted to help her adopted country--"where she was still technically an enemy agent" and saw the utility of a weapon to attack the German submarines. Hence her picture on the book jacket of HL on top of a torpedo. People regularly underestimated her, including the U.S. Navy who were not about to accept that any women would have the smarts to invent a torpedo. "She deserved better. "The real story will amaze you."
2. Major Inputs
There are ten chapters in this book. This review will focus on highlights from eight of these.
(1) Chapter One: A Charming Austrian Girl
She lived in Vienna in early 1931. HL was only 17, but already a professional actress. She had a small role in the play "The Weaker Sex." There was some effort by the director to Americanize this young actress. And she was eager to be Americanized. She had only the vaguest ideas about America, "except that they were grouped around Hollywood."
In raising their child her father adored her, and was very proud of her. He gave her pretty clothes, a fine home, parties, schools, sports. Hedy's mother, Trude, was stricter, "concerned that such a pretty, vivacious child would grow up spoiled unless she heard criticism." Trude had trained as a concert pianist and supervised her lessons on their grand piano.
The Kieslers were Jewish, but Hedy kept her heritage a secret over her life. Her son and daughter only found out after her death. In prewar Vienna it did not matter. The city's legacy of a grand ethnic mix was one of it's glories. Vienna had military, political and commercial importance. However, these were not predominant in the life of the individual and of the masses in Vienna. This was reserved for the theater, "which assumed so important a role in public life as hardly was possible in any other city." What else but theater and motion pictures "would a bright, pretty Viennese girl choose." HL acted all the time. She copied her mother. She copied their guests. She copied their servants. She was a living copybook.
HL scouted the largest motion-picture studio in Vienna. She entered this studio for a job as a script girl. Probably because she was so pretty and brash the script director gave her a shot. She then discovered there was a minor part for a girl in a nightclub scene, so she applied for that and got it right away. She was hooked, but she now had to tell her parents she was dropping out of school at 16. They were dumbfounded initially, but not totally surprised. In fact they were never surprised at anything she did. She could not go, her father said, unless her mother went too. However, Hedy did not want her mother to go for several reasons. First she was embarrassed when her mother was in the studio watching her. Another reason was that she was in love with somebody and wanted no chaperoning mother to interfere. Finally her father gave her his blessing for her to become an actress. Her "dear father said `You have been an actress ever since you were a baby'!"
The "Weaker Sex" played in Vienna for one month. Before they knew it another play was in rehearsal. At that time Hollywood was buying up European actors as it rapidly expanded movie production. This trend would accelerate after 1933 when the Nazis took power, and Jews saw their civil rights shot down. At this time HL decided she wanted no more stage roles, so she headed to Berlin, the center of film making in Germany. She quickly obtained spots in three movies at the tender age of 17. The last of these "One Needs No Money" premiered in Vienna in December 1931 and in New York the following fall. The NY Times praised this film and noted it was "reinforced by Hedy Kiesler, a charming Austrian girl."
Clearly Hedy had a strong bond with her father. It is hard to tell how much he knew of his daughter's movie career and some of her rather wild behavior in her early movies. For example she starred in the 1933 movie "Ecstasy, where she simulated having sex. Some have suggested that this was not really simulated.
This film premiered in Prague in January 1933, then in Vienna a month later. It was shown in four theaters. HL tried to prepare her parents by describing the movie as "artistic," but that was hardly enough. Her father did not stay for the complete movie. He simply rose and said "we will go." Because they loved her so deeply they did not speak of this movie any more. Her father passed away in 1935, perhaps none too soon
Her next effort was the musical comedy "the courtship of the young Emperor Franz Josef and Elizabeth , a 16 year old, daughter of Bavaria's Duke Max. She was nicknamed Sissy, and the movie became known by that name. This show opened at Christmas 1932, with HL as the understudy. She took over the lead role in late March, 1933. This show extended through hundreds of performances. One reviewer reported: "She looks wonderful, tender and really attractive. "In short a delightful show.
Flowers began to crowd her dressing room that spring, from a wealthy admirer, but she sent them back. The admirer was a Fritz Mandel. He tried in every way to get in touch with her. She had heard of him, as everyone in Austria had. He was the third richest man in Austria, based on a family owned ammunition factory. It had agreements with other arms manufacturers all over Europe. What followed could hardly be called a courtship.
He had arranged a first meeting via Trudy's mother, but Hedy was very rude to him. It was the first clash of their wills. He continued to swamp her with flowers and invitations to lunch, dinner and the theater. He would frequently come to their house. He would talk to her about hunting which he loved and Hedy also loved. She discovered he had rebuilt the family factory after it had burned to the ground when he was 19. He not only rebuilt the factory, but also the fortune, so this was not inherited wealth and power. HL gradually became attracted by the brain and power of this man, and this attraction soon grew into love. He too was in love, or more precisely infatuated. And he was eager to acquire a trophy wife. They were married on August 10, 1933. She was 19. He was 13 years her senior.
Their married life, of course, changed many things. First he went after every copy of the movie "Ecstasy" he could find. It became an obsession with him. It has been reported he spent $300,000 on this task, which would be about five million in current dollars. Next her acting career was over. She soon discovered he was very controlling. She no longer was Hedy Kiesler, an individual. She was now Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler Mandl. Now he built her many places to live including a palatial townhouse and three hunting lodges. A picture depicts one of these lodges, with the following caption:. "While hosting German experts at this Mandl hunting lodge, Hedy heard talk of torpedo technology--and remembered it."
This marriage lasted four years from 1933 to 1937. During this time, at lunches and dinners, she listened in on the discussions he would have with his clients. Then after each event, she would enter the key inputs into her diary.
(2) Chapter Two: Bad Boy of Music.
George Antheil (GA), was born "with the century in Trenton, New Jersey." He became a young American composer and a brilliant concert pianist and was composing radical music in Paris while HL was still a girl. He was also a rather interesting writer. His path would intersect Hedy's path frequently and in a variety of ways as time passed. More on these intersections in the following chapters.
(3) Chapter Five: Leaving Fritz
HL listened at many lunches and dinners at the Mandl mansions. She surely listened intently to discussions on torpedoes. The genius of German torpedoes at that time was Hellmuth Walter, a mechanical engineer. Walter focused on torpedo propulsion, which was limited by the need to supplying oxygen underwater to sustain combustion. Walter's key idea was to search out a compound that contained enough oxygen in its molecular structure to achieve this need. Concentrated H2O2 seemed to be the answer. His work found that concentrated H2O2 could be decomposed into steam and oxygen, in the process, generating intense heat. This reaction created a temperature of 869 ºF, superheating the steam to drive a steam turbine, if a fuel were added, such as ethanol or kerosene.
Walter found very little input on the use of H2O2 for energy production. He took his idea to the German navy. They were interested, but needed proof it was safe to handle. He was able to prove this, but decided to set-up his own engineering firm, on 07/01/35. The real development of engines and rockets started after this date. His firm worked on mini-subs, with encouragement from a Captain Karl Donitz, already an influential submarine commander. Next were missile engines and assisted-takeoff devices to enable aircraft to take off from shorter runways.
All of these were mono-fuel devices based on 80 percent H2O2. Some of the tests were midget prototypes of the V2 that reached an altitude of 18 kilometers. And the first torpedoes were launched just before WWII broke out. These used a dual-fuel system of H2O2 and kerosene. In addition, and most pertinent to HL's eventual purpose, was that Walter's firm was involved with development of remote control for their torpedoes.
This development started in 1935, early enough for HL to have heard about it. Radio control of torpedoes was extremely difficult, and most German specialists favored wire control. However, the anti-ship glide bombs were based on radio control, using a system of frequency selection that prevented the guidance system from being jammed.
HL met Walter in 12/36, at their Christmas party at the Hirtenberger factory."As we had dinner he talked about his torpedoes. "All of this discussion was of high interest to HL, as she prepared to leave her husband and find her way to Hollywood." She told tales of how she freed herself.. She had reason to lie, as her film: "Ecstasy" had been censored in the USA. Also divorce was seen as a scandal at that time. "Hence a story of confinement and a clever escape might avoid further stigma."
A story closer to the truth was that after the Christmas party HL traveled to the ski resort St. Moritz. Mandl's work kept him from accompanying her--or he and HL may have separated after one of their many battles. She was there for several months and likely had an affair with Erich Remarque, the author of "All Quiet on the Western Front." A key requirement for a new identity is a mentor to guide one through the process. Remarque probably filled that role. He had already transformed from a "war-weary soldier to a best-selling novelist."
On her return to Vienna HL determined to resume her acting career. Mandl, of course, did not agree. However, she now realized she had to leave, not only to get away from her husband, but also due to the increasing racism in Austria. She began packing one night when Mandl was at one of their lodges. She packed her jewels and all the furs and clothes she could get into two large trunks, two small ones and three suitcases. She could not take very much money out of the country. She was leaving her home, her mother and all her friends. She left "Vienna that night, veiled and incognito", and went straight through to London.
In London, HL ran into Louis Mayer, head of MGM Studios. At a small party, Hedy talked a bit with Mayer. A bit later she met an agent, Bob Ritchie. They went to see Mayer, and this time the talk was more direct. He acknowledged he had seen "Ecstasy." However, you'd never "get away with that stuff in Hollywood. "Never. "A women's ass is for her husband, not theatregoers." Soon he offered her a standard contract for six months at $125/week, if she paid her way to America. HL rejected that offer.
Hedy heard that Mayer was sailing to America on the Normandie. She bought a ticket for the same trip, and of course soon ran into the Mayers and became good friends on this ship. She also became the center of attention for all the young males on board. She was able to parade them past Mr. Mayer. Soon this did the trick. Mayer increased his offer to $500/week, worth about $8000 today, on a seven year contract. Two other conditions were attached: She would take English lessons and also change her name. Ultimately Mr. and Mrs Mayer chose the name Hedy Lamarr, with the last name coming from a deceased actress by the name of La Marr. HL accepted her new name. She arrived in Hollywood in 10/37.
(4) Chapter Six: Cinemology.
"About GA." Word came in late June, 1940 that George Antheil's younger brother, Henry Antheil (HA), had been killed in a plane crash. In 1939, Henry had requested transfer from Moscow to Helsinki. He arrived on 11/30 and saw and felt the bombing that initiated the brief war between Russia and Finland. Henry had been spending time in Moscow; Helsinki and Tallinson, Estonia. On his last flight back to Helsinki his plane exploded in mid-air. It was reported that the Soviets had shot this Finnish airliner down.
It was Henry who had been sending inputs on the pending war that GA had used to write a series of spectacular articles for Esquire, and later for a book: "The Shape of the War to Come." HA had predicted within a week the beginning of WWII. HA also predicted the German surprise attack on the USSR in June 1941, and the Japanese entry into WWII in December 1941. HA's inputs came from classified cables he illegally extracted for his brother's use.
"About HL." She also married her second husband, a Gene Markey as one could not live with a man in those days without being married. They were married on 03/04/39, four weeks after they met. Markey was tall, handsome and highly polished. He was "a brilliant raconteur, a man of unfailing wit and humor [who] could charm the birds off the trees." However, the birds he was after were women, the richer and more beautiful the better. Their marriage lasted 16 months. She told the court that they had spent only four nights together over their marriage. They had adopted a baby boy, who remained with HL after their divorce.
Now Hedy's awareness of WWII was less dramatic. However, she had heard about the "murdered children." These murdered children that horrified her were evacuees from Liverpool. The first ship was the SS Volendam, with 320 children out of the 606 passengers. Fortunately all 320 children survived. A second ship, the City of Benares--with 406 on-board, including 90 children-- was torpedoed, with a loss of 245. Only 13 of the children survived. It was then that HL "decided the Allies had to do something about the German submarine menace. She began thinking about how to invent a remote-controlled torpedo to attack submarines just at the time she met GA.
(5) Chapter Seven: Frequency Hopping.
"We were good friends of Adrian Gayner, the dress designer, and his wife Janet Gaynor," Boski Antheil (BA) noted in her memoirs. BA was George's "Wife." She and a friend traveled east over 08/40 "to visit my heart broken parents in Trenton" HA was dead and his "death - - - has both saddened me and steeled me in my resolve to do whatever I can to help my country, a country that HA loved so dearly." HA saw the need "to withstand and defeat the evil predatory powers that are again lose in the world."
The week before the sinking of the Volendam, was the week that GA and HL met. George was batching it. The Adrians invited him to dinner to make-up a foursome with Hedy, who separated from Gene Markey the month before. "Two intelligent and articulate people, both alone, native German speakers, and former members of the European artistic community, were reasons enough to put them together." So they got together. Of all the subjects they could have talked about, she only wanted to talk about the size of her breasts, and if he could make them larger. GA considered himself an expert on female endocrinology and had written on the subject. On their second meeting they discussed glandular extracts, that would make an "honest gland" of her post-pituitary, so that her breasts would stay up.
Later that evening they began talking about the war. HL told GA that she was unhappy sitting in Hollywood, as WWII progressed. She claimed she knew quite a bit about new munitions and several secret weapons. Now GA wasn't sure how much to believe in her claims. She suggested the just established National Inventors Council could profitably debrief her on the "espionage she had conducted over the Mandl dining table listening to experts discuss their weapon projects and problems."
Another way was to work on inventions. She had many ideas. GA describes her drawing room as filled with unreadable books and very useable drawing boards. They started to work on her invention on 09/17/40 after the sinking of the doomed ship.
Boski returned home, on 09/30/40, to find them hard at work. BA was concerned that an affair had been going on, but this seems highly unlikely for several reasons not the least being that GA was exactly the opposite of the type of men she had shown interest in. Ultimately BA became a close friend of HL
How did an actress and a composer invent a remote-controlled torpedo? Hedy had focused on a radio controlled unit, but why, as the discussion over the Mandl dining table had focused on wire control. There were several events on inputs that guided her, such as:
(a) Philco introduced the first wireless remote control. These radios were very expensive, about $2,600 in current dollars. And changing stations remotely, was analogous to changing a torpedo's direction remotely. [There is a picture of this console and the dialing unit used to change stations].
(b) She next decided to attempt to solve a very serious potential problem: jamming. How she knew that set frequency radio-controlled systems were easily jammed she never revealed. However, the Philco system was plagued with interference problems, and jamming is simply deliberate interference.
(c) Another possible stimulus was German R&D, on radio-controlled anti-ship weapons. Radio control had already been practiced in WWI. The inventor, Nikola Tesla, patented a radio controlled boat, which could be loaded with high explosives as a surface torpedo.
(d) Another expert, a U. S. Navy engineer, came up with an approach based on a system that generated high frequency signals so far above the contemporary range, that the enemy would be hard pressed to find it, much less jam it.
These and other ideas may have been at work down in the creative ferment of HL's "unconscious." The next step was to explain the idea to GA. The implementation came from him. They worked together to reduce the idea of frequency hopping to practice. The key claim in their patent application reads as follows:
"In a radio communication system comprising a radio transmitter tunable to any one of a plurality of frequencies and a radio receiver tunable to anyone of said plurality of frequencies, the method of effecting secret communication between said stations which comprises simultaneously the tuning of transmitter and receiver according to an arbitrary, nonrecurring pattern."
Now the reduction to practice needs elaboration. It once meant that the claimant would provide a miniature working model. Fortunately this requirement was dropped in 1880 and replaced with what was called "constructive" reduction to practice, which meant "construed" or a "virtual" demonstration such as drawings and a written description rather than a physical model. HL had the idea of frequency hopping, but she needed GA to help reduce it to practice. One of the reasons she chose him is that he had some experience with munitions--namely as an inspector of artillery munitions near the end of WWI--and this would be useful on the patent application. GA more importantly, was an expert in making machines talk to each other in synchrony, such as "player pianos."
So together they continued to apply their knowledge to the problem of creating a frequency-hopping radio signal and synchronizing its frequency changes between a ship or an airplane and a torpedo. A picture of a drawing from their patent application, dated 08/11/42, is shown in the picture section. It lists the inventors as Hedy Kiesler Markey and George Antheil. However the navy rejected their guidance system as too bulky.
(6) Chapter Eight: Flashes of Genius.
This chapter covers the period from 10/40 to 09/06/41. During this period, the divorce from Gene Markey became final. HL now spent all of her spare time on inventing, starting with a new "soda pop" bouillon cube, with help from Howard Hughes. However, it flopped. GA and HL worked on polishing their patent application. "The Lamaar-Antriel radio-controlled torpedo had reached this point in its evolution when the two inventors offered their ideas to the U. S. Government in December, 1940."
There were at least three other inventions during this period. Now it would appear that GA was involved in these inventions. One was an anti-aircraft shell with a proximity fuse. The U.S. development of a radar controlled proximity fuse, delivered to the military in 1943, was an achievement of greater importance than the atomic bomb. Such shells saved countless number of American lives, including thousands from downing kamikaze planes.
HL and GA's shell, generated a magnetic field to detect the presence of a large metal body. GA submitted this to the National Inventors Council over 11/40. This led to a dispute between the two inventors, that threatened their partnership. A colleague of HL began to suspect GA was withholding information about Washington's response to the proposal, something a person might do who meant to cut his partner out of a claim. HL accused GA of this and GA was understandably incensed. This led to many exchanges by letter or face to face, or through many third parties. Some of these were friends, some politicians and some military. In-spite of this tension they continued to work on "their inventions."
Over this period GA worked on extending his endocrinology "expertise", namely his theory of glandular criminology. Through a friend he had meetings with J. Edgar Hoover and members of his staff, but nothing came of it, a result that added to his overall depression.
In contrast HL starred in the movie "Zeigfeld Girl" along with Judy Garland, Lana Turner and James Stewart. After completing the shooting she flew off to the Riviera for a vacation.
In-spite of all this trauma and activity George and Hedy constructively reduced their invention to practice. Their final contact was a professor in electrical engineering at Caltech. He supplied them with some additional details and also his enthusiasm about the torpedo anti-jam device. He stated "positively that it would work."
(7) Chapter Nine: Red-Hot Apparatus
This chapter included:
*more technical developments by these inventors on their torpedo invention;
*more news on the unfolding of WWII and the problems with American torpedoes;
*more trauma for HL;
*more war work for HL;
*additional movies by HL; and
Technical developments included a synchronized alternating radio wavelength devices for both sending ship and receiving torpedo and a minimum broadcast length device doubly insure torpedoes against jamming.
News development included that after Pearl Harbor, the only ships America had left in the Philippines were subs and torpedo boats. In the months that followed the navy began to realize there was something wrong with there torpedoes: they ran too deep; exploded too soon, or never and frequently did not have enough power. In 1942, 60 percent were duds. All of these problems meant that the navy had no room for a new torpedo with a complicated guidance system.
HL's trauma included being laid off between films by MGM, illness, weight loss, rejection of scripts she was offered and negotiations for a salary increase.
While out on strike from MGM she worked with other stars to sell war bonds. She was a super sales lady and was credited with sales of $25M or $343M in current dollars. In addition HL worked frequently at the Hollywood Canteen, "wearing a dirndl skirt and blouse, dancing with servicemen and washing dishes."
Additional movies included: "White Cargo", with Walter pigeon; "The Heavenly Body" with William Powell and "The Conspirators" with Paul Henreid.
Her third marriage was with an actor, John Loder. He was tall, handsome, the son of a British general, and a veteran of the bloody campaign at Gallipoli during WWI. He was 45 and HL was 27. This was a good marriage for a time and lasted four years. They had two children.
(8) Chapter Ten: O Pioneers! 194-214
This chapter covers many technical events from 08/11/42, the date on their patent, almost to 01/19/00, the date that HL passed on. A few of these follow.
*US Navy. A patent now exists for the HL/GA patent, but the Navy had no immediate use for it. They filed it away as a "Classified Secret."
*Scibor-Marckocki, a consulting engineer in LA, received a contract to develop jam-proofed Sonobouy. He was provided with a copy of the "Secret Communication System patent." to help achieve this goal.
*Robert Scholtz, a USC professor in EE prepared a paper in `82 on the origin of Spread-spectrum systems.
*Robert Price, a colleague, interviewed HL for a follow-up paper. He concluded that HL/GA were more than 20 years ahead of their time.
*US Navy and the National Bureau of Standards developed a radio control system for a glide bomb.
*Madison Nicholson's team ,
*Claude Shannon, a mathematician and electrical engineer wrote the seminal paper on spread-spectrum development in 1948.
*Madison Nicholson (MN), in 1955, initiated work on a radio communication for new subs, that used frequency-hopping spread spectrum (FH-SS) technology. Aprotoytpe was sent in 1962 and was installed in the "Mount McKinley."
*US Military, between 1945 and 1978 a number of secret communication systems based on various forms of SS technology that were used on a multiplicity of key missiles.
*Scibor-Marckocki, made further use of SS technology for the development of a surveillance drone, that flew in the Vietnam war.
It is time to bring this review to an end. We have covered eight chapters, four in some depth. We have reviewed the lives and loves and careers of the two principals: GA and HL.
GA was a writer of spectacular articles for Esquire and an author of key books; one of the top four performed composers, in the company of Copeland and Gershwin; a returnee to musical drama: many operas, a cantata, songs, sonatas, and film, TV and radio scores; a spouse in a close, intimate, complicated marriage, but when he died in 1959, he left an illegitimate six month old boy. A reviewer of GA's Fourth Symphony "catches something of Antheils brash character as well as the spirit of his music." There is everything in it--military band music, waltzes, sentimental ditties, a Red Army song. "It is bright, hard, noisy, busy, bumptious, efficient and incredibly real." It is "Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean" orchestrated in red, white and blue.
HL was an incredible actress of great breadth and depth; she was a spouse, six times over; she was a mother of two children by her third husband, and adopted a child via her second husband, albeit she had essentially disowned this child; she was a willing patient of a Boston psychoanalyst, which after two years, this treatment did her much good; She was a refuge from MGM and a new star for deMille where she starred in the blockbuster movie "Delilah"; however, she watched as her film roles declined and began to work on TV; she earned over $370 million in current money, but financing films and the cost of six divorces consumed most of that, so she lived far more modestly in the later decades of her life; she followed all of the developments of spread-spectrum applications, many of them of major import and financial success, if somewhat bitter over lack of recognition, but she didn't let her bitterness consume her; she was quite a lady.
Recognition finally started to come. Two of these deserve note.
A beautiful tribute, by Robert Osborne on page 211, said it all. He noted that "few sailed through the calamities of life with more of a bright spirit." Few "seemed to be having more fun, even when the bloodhounds were snapping at her ankles." A sad figure? No way. If there was any sign of tragedy connected to HL "it was the fact that she ever had to grow old." When a face had been as flawless and celebrated as she had, "it's not easy greeting birthdays." So she retreated from those who didn't look deeper and filled the days with activities and with humor still intact, tolerated the rest of us.
The second tribute was from a retired Colonel David Hughes. While working on a specific army project he came across the story of HL and "frequency hopping." He decided she deserved recognition for her pioneer invention of FH-SS. He pursued the Pioneer Award from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which was presented on 03/12/97. Her son accepted the award for her. The award was also presented posthumously to GA. HL spoke briefly via a tape and said: "In acknowledgment of your honoring me I hope you feel good as well as I feel good about it." She was 82, but her voice sounded remarkably young.
She died in her sleep on 01/19/2000. She left her son and daughter, Anthony and Denise, $3million. They carried her ashes back to Austria and scattered them in the Vienna Woods overlooking her native city.
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. Endowed with an exceptionally keen mind and remarkable powers of observation, she soaked up discussions of weapons systems and armaments while attending lavish parties thrown by her husband. Even as she was expected to sit still and smile, she would carefully listen to descriptions of advances in military hardware from experts like the rocket and submarine pioneer Hellmuth Walter.
Tired of the growing brutality in Germany and trapped in an unhappy marriage, Lamarr fled to Paris, London and then to the United States where she was swept up right away by a Hollywood which was then eagerly showcasing immigrant European actors. Lamarr acted in a string of successful Hollywood movies and became known for her beauty, but the most consequential event in her life was her meeting with her California neighbor George Antheil, an avant garde musician who had spent the 1920s socializing with American expatriates in Paris and musicians like Igor Stravinsky. Like Lamarr, Antheil had an exceptional technical bent which he exploited in arranging complex combinations of player pianos and other musical instruments - an early analog version of orchestration and automated control. His "Ballet Mécanique" featuring a joyous panoply of diverse instruments and sounds had been a sensation in Paris. Apparently Lamarr first met Antheil for advice on breast augmentation since Antheil had written a few articles on the topic. But when she learnt about his background and mechanical inclination, the two struck up a close professional relationship and friendship (although Antheil was married and Rhodes finds it very unlikely that they were intimate). Distressed partly by the sinking of passenger ships by German submarines and wanting to use her secretly gained knowledge of weapons systems, Lamarr had an idea for transmitting radio signals to torpedoes to guide them to their target.
In those days, wireless transmission was risky since it was based on a single frequency which the enemy could intercept. Based on her understanding of these limitations gathered from listening on conversations that her ex-husband had had with military personnel, Lamarr came up with an idea for rapidly switching transmission and reception between various frequencies, thus thwarting easy attempts at detection. Knowing about Antheil's technical bent, she took the idea to him and together they filed a key patent laying out the features of the idea in 1942. While early incarnations of the invention involved manually switching the frequency, the design soon metamorphosed into one using piano rolls (with which Antheil was intimately familiar) to semi-automatically hop between different frequencies. An ingenious addition was the inclusion of three empty channels for broadcasting "dummy" frequencies devoid of information to further confuse the enemy's jamming attempts. After final refinements, Antheil and Lamarr made a presentation to the U.S. Navy which failed to take them seriously, partly because they found it hard to believe that a Hollywood actress and an avant garde musician could come up with such a novel idea. As usual, Rhodes is excellent when explaining the scientific background of radio communication and the novelty of the Lamarr-Antheil model.
The innovative and strategically key invention languished in the shadows until it was discovered out of necessity by the Navy which was looking for a way to enable jam-proof communication between ships and aircraft. It started to be implemented in a variety of important devices and systems and was used in the Bay of Pigs invasion. Today its remnants are used in a wide variety of communications technologies, from cell phone networks to sophisticated radar systems to GPS. In 1997 the Electronic Frontier Foundation gave Lamarr an award for her work. Hedy herself withdrew from public life and died in 2000; Antheil had sadly died long before in 1959 without being recognized for his contributions.
Perhaps the most revealing and saddening part of Rhodes's story is its description of how people failed to take Lamarr seriously as an inventor because she was a beautiful woman and a Hollywood actress. Lamarr herself used to say that her beauty was a curse, blinding people to any other talent she might have. In fact she was unlike most celebrities, eschewing parties and drinks and preferring quiet evenings filled with interesting conversations. Sadly, stereotypical views endure and beauty continues to be often regarded as incompatible with scientific or intellectual talents, especially among women. In a society that can value looks above everything else, Lamarr's story is a resounding counterexample and a role model for young girls that should help shatter stereotypes and reinforce the notion that disparate talents can manifest themselves in the same individual. Rhodes has picked an exceptionally interesting character to showcase this fact and he tells her story with verve, sympathy and clarity.
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I only give the book four stars, because I disagree with one of its major conclusions. According to the book her invention was rejected by the US Navy because Hedy Lamarr was a woman, so the Navy did not give it a serious treatment. However, there is nothing to substantiate that. In contrast, the US Navy had serious unsolved technical problems at the time, and probably made their decision based on the effort it would take to turn her invention into a something that could be used In military operations. Even though her invention was made in 1941 and had obvious advantages, it was only finally used in 1962.
Given this point where I disagree with the author, it is an exciting book and absolutely worthwhile reading.