Hedy Lamarr’s Double Life: Hollywood Legend and Brilliant Inventor
Written by Laurie Wallmark, Illustrated by Katy Wu
What keeps computers and mobile phones protected from hackers? A breakthrough technology Hollywood starlet Hedy Lamarr invented more than a half century ago called “frequency-hopping spread spectrum” that helps keep them safe today.
Despite her brilliance as both an actress and inventor, Hedy had to convince people that her brain power rivaled her star power. After a long day of acting, Hedy rushed home to the inventor’s workshop she created to work on her science and engineering ideas.
Her passion for finding new ways to do things was nurtured by her father, who exchanged ideas with his young daughter as they walked through their hometown in Vienna, Austria in the early 1920s.
As an adult, Hedy acted in many popular movies, which made her a film star at the same time her adopted country, the United States, fought in World War II. A chance conversation with a musician who was also a weapons inspector led her to experiment with and invent a new guidance system for remote controlled weapons with directions that were sent on changing frequencies and in short bursts. The innovation was designed to prevent enemies from tampering with the guidance systems of things like torpedoes.
Although the technology was not implemented in time for the war, it is the foundation of protections incorporated into mobile phones today.
Interspersed between Laurie Wallmark’s narration are inspiring quotes including, “Hope and curiosity about the future seemed better than guarantees.” There is also a timeline and a longer explanation of her invention at the end of the book. Together with Katy Wu’s delightful illustrations, the author’s story of Hedy’s invention is fascinating and enjoyable to read. (Ages 7-10 years)