Movies / Music / Science

A great new book about Hedy Lamarr and George Antheil:

“That a glamorous movie star whose day job involved hours of makeup calls and dress fittings would spend her off hours designing sophisticated weapons systems is one of the great curiosities of Hollywood history. Lamarr, however, not only possessed a head for abstract spatial relationships, but she also had been in her former life a fly on the wall during meetings and technical discussions between her ­munitions-manufacturer husband and his clients, some of them Nazi officials. Disturbed by news reports of innocents killed at sea by U-boats, she was determined to help defeat the German attacks.

“Over several years the composer and the movie star spent countless hours together drafting and redrafting designs, not only for the torpedo system but also for a “proximity fuse” antiaircraft shell.

“On Aug. 11, 1942, United States Patent No. 2,292,387 was granted to them for their design. But persuading the Navy to take it seriously proved insurmountable. Pentagon bureaucracy, coupled with the fact that the design’s co-inventor was a movie star, resulted in their idea being ignored. Hedy’s folly may have been in assuming men in government might overcome their prejudice that a beautiful woman could not have brains and imagination. But she lived to see similar versions of her invention be put into common practice, and in 1997, Hedy Lamarr, at the age of 82, and George Antheil (posthumously) were honored with the Pioneer Award by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/18/books/review/hedys-folly-by-richard-rhodes-book-review.html

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