Hedy's Folly: The Life and Breakthrough Inventions of Hedy Lamarr, the Most Beautiful Woman in the World
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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.
radically minded, quite believing in woman’s equal rights, fiercely believing in independence of spirit … and also slightly cynical about the world.… But George and Paris humanized me. I suddenly knew that just simply living can be fun. Their first task was locating a place to live. Instead of consulting a realtor, they found Shakespeare and Company, Sylvia Beach’s bookstore at 12, rue de l’Odéon on the Left Bank near the Luxembourg Gardens. “I still don’t remember how we ever did get to
repeated. In their day Sacre du Printemps and Tristan und Isolde were the high points of their day, and as their beauty (or ugliness, just as you wish, they are the same) could not be repeated in another work, it represented the height of its movement, and consequently is deceased. The Ballet Mecanique is the end of a period: one can stand upon one’s head, or do what one likes, but it is there. The timing of Antheil’s new phase, and its presumably intentional backdating in his autobiography,
an existing invention that is substantially the same as the old is not usually a patentable idea. Nor did Hedy think it so. She took her idea a step further, not to make it patentable merely, but to solve a problem she foresaw of torpedo control by radio: jamming. How she knew that set-frequency radio-control systems were easily jammed, she never said. The Philco radios that used Mystery Control were plagued with interference problems, and jamming is simply deliberate interference. The radios had
kept the technology secret for the next forty years, one reason Hedy and George’s contribution long went uncelebrated. After the patent was awarded, Antheil wrote to Bullitt again, complaining about the Navy’s rejection of his and Hedy’s inventions. Bullitt’s influence had declined sharply in Washington, however. He had dreamed of becoming secretary of state. Antheil had even encouraged him to think of running for president as Roosevelt’s successor. But Bullitt had destroyed his relationship
gambled for high stakes, and kept fancy apartments.” He was half-Jewish; his Jewish father, Alexander, had fallen in love with a family chambermaid who was Catholic and had converted to her faith and married her after Fritz was born. By all accounts Fritz was a womanizer and an arriviste, already once divorced. He was also a canny and ruthless businessman. “He was so powerful,” Hedy said, “so influential, so rich, that always he had been able to arrange everything in his life just as he wished