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Last week, my wife and I saw the movie “Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr story.” I had known she was some sort of early movie actress and I had some idea that she had some technological patents. It winds up she was a pretty interesting person. She was born in Austria and her first marriage (of 6) was to an Austrian munitions manufacturer. She did some early movies, but the most infamous was “Ecstasy” which contained nude scenes. It was regarded as artistic in Europe but banned in America. That seemed to have some impact on her career when she eventually moved here.
She accompanied her husband to business meetings where he conferred with people involved in military technology. That eventually led to some of her inventions. Her husband was very controlling and she fled both him and Hitler as Austria was absorbed by the Nazis and wound up in America.
She had heard that the radio link between ships and the new radio-controlled torpedoes was being jammed and came up with what would become “Frequency Hopping” communications. One problem with that technology was to keep the transmitter and receiver synchronized to the appropriate frequencies. Her idea, along with composer George Anthiel, was to use a player-piano-like roll at each end of the transmission. They both received a patent, but it wound up the Navy didn’t use the technology until the ’60s. She never got any royalty payments for it. The Navy was more interested in using her fame to help raise war bonds. Not many people could see past her beauty to see the talent, but Howard Hughes was one. He gave her full use of his labs.
All in all, she was beautiful and talented and it seems very headstrong. The movie ended with her voice reciting the following aphorisms. (Finally, he gets to a quote!). I am not sure if she was the author or not.
- People are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered. Love them anyway.
- If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish motives. Do good anyway.
- The biggest people with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest people with the smallest minds. Think big anyway.
- What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway.
- Give the world the best you have, and you’ll be kicked in the teeth. Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.”
I can’t think of many other people who had talents in such different areas.