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Monday, November 9, 2015

Google doodle on Hedy Lamarr, not just an actress ! - an inventor.

Heroines attract big crowds ! –  Internet is awash with photos of the crowds that came when a leading actress came to open a Jewellery shop.  Today morning with rains and heavy winds, all that I wanted was to search on the ‘depression turning into a cyclone’ …. .. this doodle stood on top – it is of an Austrian actress Hedy Lamarr, once described as “the most beautiful woman in the world”.  First details read : Born Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler in 1914 in Vienna, Austria, Ms Lemarr got her first leading role aged just 17, in a German film called Geld Auf Der Strase. A subsequent German film, Exstase, brought her to the attention of Hollywood producers, and she soon signed a contract with MGM.

A couple of quotes attributed to her :"Any girl can be glamorous. All you have to do is stand still and look stupid.";  "I must quit marrying men who feel inferior to me. Somewhere there must be a man who could be my husband and not feel inferior. I need a superior inferior man."

2nd quote you will perhaps read with her marriage chronology : Married: Fritz Mandl (m.1933 – d.1937), Gene Markey (m.1939 – d.1940), John Loder (m.1943 – d.1947), Teddy Stauffer (m.1951 – d.1952), W. Howard Lee (m.1953 – d.1960), Lewis J. Boies (m.1963 – d.1965).  Once in Hollywood, she officially changed her name to Hedy Lamarr and starred in her first Hollywood film, and continued  opposite the most popular and talented actors of her time.    The doodle is an animation telling the story of Ms Lamarr's life, set to a soundtrack created by composer Adam Ever-Hadani. In a nod to her Hollywood career, it is in a movie format, and attempts to capture the look and feel of 1940s fashion illustrations and film posters.

If this is what is written perhaps to some of us at least, no further reading ! – but – she deserves to be known more, for, she  was not just a pretty face. In addition to her film accomplishments, she patented an idea called the "Secret Communication System" in 1942, which later became pivotal to both secure military communications and mobile phone technology. Ms Lamarr had some background in military munitions, and when World War II broke out she was keen to help the Allied war effort. In particular, she wanted to solve the problem of enemies blocking signals from radio-controlled missiles.

During her first marriage, Lamarr developed an interest in applied science, and bored by her acting career, utilized this knowledge as an inventor. At the commencement of World War II, keen to aid the Allied war effort, she identified jamming of Allied radio communications by the Axis as a particular problem, and with composer George Antheil, developed spread spectrum and frequency hopping technology to defeat it. Though the US Navy did not adopt the technology until the 1960s, the principles of her work are now incorporated into modern Wi-Fi, CDMA and Bluetooth technology. 

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. Lamarr participated in a war bond selling campaign with a sailor named Eddie Rhodes. In the 1990s, Lamarr and Antheil got the recognition they deserved for their invention. They received such awards as the Electronic Frontier Foundation Pioneer Award and the BULBIEª 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 addition, her technological contributions have been featured on the Science Channel and the Discovery Channel. Lamarr and Antheil were inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2014.

Google blog reads : We love highlighting the many good stories about women’s achievements in science and technology. When the story involves a 1940s Hollywood star-turned-inventor who helped develop technologies we all use with our smartphones today… well, we just have to share it with the world. Today on Google’s homepage we’re celebrating Hedy Lamarr, the Austrian-born actress  Hollywood once dubbed “the most beautiful woman in the world.”  Lamarr’s own story reads like a movie script: bored by the film industry and feeling typecast,  Lamarr was more interested in helping the Allied war effort as World War II broke out than in the roles she was being offered.  She had some background in military munitions (yes, really), and together with a composer friend, George Antheil, used the principles of how pianos worked (yep, pianos) to identify a way to prevent German submarines from jamming Ally radio signals. The patent for “frequency hopping” Lamarr co-authored laid the groundwork for widely-used technologies like Bluetooth, GPS and wifi that we rely upon daily.

It’s no wonder, then, that Lamarr has kind of a mythical status at Google, Sketching storyboards on a yellow notepad helped me figure out how to show Lamarr in very different scenarios—movie star by day, inventor by night—which we then animated and set to the awesome soundtrack created by composer Adam Ever-Hadani.

A book by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Rhodes  rewrote  America's memory of Lamarr. ‘Hedy's Folly: The Life and Breakthrough Inventions of Hedy Lamarr, The Most Beautiful Woman in the World’  chronicled her life and the inventive side that is not often mentioned. Today’s doodle on her is seen  around the world except for the UK, Mexico and parts of the Middle East and Africa !

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

9th Nov. 2015.

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