Friday 10 November 2017

Happy Birthday Hedy Lamars - Proof that misogynists are idiots

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Hedy Lamarr
Today would have been Hedy Lamarr's 103rd Birthday. She became a movie star, got bored, then got into science. She helped the Allies during WWII, developing spread spectrum and frequency hopping technology. Her work created the basis of modern Wi-Fi & Bluetooth.

For me, Hedy Lamarr is the epitome of a perfect woman, she was extremely beautiful, incredibly intelligent a passionate believer in justice, a strident anti Nazi campaigner and by all accounts an outrageous flirt.

Author Richard Rhodes wrote of her "Of all the European émigrés who escaped Nazi Germany and Nazi Austria, she was one of the very few who succeeded in moving to another culture and becoming a full-fledged star herself. There were so very few who could make the transition linguistically or culturally. She really was a resourceful human being–I think because of her father’s strong influence on her as a child"

This, to me, shows why it is so important for parents to be positive influences on their children.

During World War II, Lamarr learned that radio-controlled torpedoes, which could be important in the naval war, could easily be jammed, thereby causing the torpedo to go off course.[ With the knowledge she had gained about torpedoes from her first husband, she thought of creating a frequency-hopping signal that could not be tracked or jammed. She contacted her friend, composer and pianist George Antheil, to help her develop a device for doing that, and he succeeded by synchronizing a miniaturized player-piano mechanism with radio signals.

They drafted designs for the frequency-hopping system, which they patented. Antheil recalls:
We began talking about the war, which, in the late summer of 1940, was looking most extremely black. Hedy said that she did not feel very comfortable, sitting there in Hollywood and making lots of money when things were in such a state. She said that she knew a good deal about munitions and various secret weapons ... and that she was thinking seriously of quitting M.G.M. and going to Washington, D.C., to offer her services to the newly established Inventors’ Council.

Their invention was granted a patent on August 11, 1942 (filed using her married name Hedy Kiesler Markey). However, it was technologically difficult to implement, and at that time the U.S. Navy was not receptive to considering inventions coming from outside the military. Only in 1962 (at the time of the Cuban missile crisis) did an updated version of their design appear on Navy ships.

In 1997, they received the Electronic Frontier Foundation Pioneer Award and the Bulbie Gnass Spirit of Achievement Bronze Award, given to individuals whose creative lifetime achievements in the arts, sciences, business, or invention fields have significantly contributed to society. In 2014, Lamarr and Antheil were posthumously inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

Lamarr wanted to join the National Inventors Council, but was reportedly told by NIC member Charles F. Kettering and others that she could better help the war effort by using her celebrity status to sell war bonds.

She participated in a war bond selling campaign with a sailor named Eddie Rhodes. Rhodes was in the crowd at each Lamarr appearance, and she would call him up on stage. She would briefly flirt with him before asking the audience if she should give him a kiss.

The crowd would of course say yes, to which Hedy would reply that she would if enough people bought war bonds. After enough bonds were purchased, she would give Rhodes his kiss, and he would head back into the audience. Then they would head off to the next war bond rally.

She really was my type of Gal! If I had a TARDIS, Hedy Lamarr is definitely in the top five people I'd like to meet.  So wherever you are Hedy, we raise a glass to you. And if you have daughters, tell them to read her story. When I read about how some of our numbskull male politicians have been behaving, I need to remind myself of what we can achieve if we so choose. Hedy Lamarr is a great inspiration and an example to me and I hope to you as well.

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