I knew Austrian born Hedy Lamarr (Hedwig Kiesler) was a very beautiful and talented actress, but I didn’t know the woman was also a whip smart, genius inventor. And how did I discover this? A pub quiz (unlikely, I don’t go out after dark), from a book (‘Women Who Dared’)? I have such a book but that wasn’t how I found out. It was in fact, from watching Wallace & Gromit’s World of Invention with my son. In the way Newsround brilliantly explains complicated issues to children, Wallace & Gromit’s World of Adventure does the same with sciency/invention stuff. Bitesized and predigested, like Brodie’s Notes. Perfect for me.
So now I know Hedy Lamarr, along with composer, George Antheil, invented something that enabled ‘frequency hopping’ of radio signals, using piano rolls. It was brilliant and could prevent U-boat radio signals being intercepted by the enemy during the war. Or would have done if the numpties in the military had not failed to believe that a girl, let along a film star beauty, could be smarter than all of them placed end to end. It wasn’t until much later, 1962, that her patented secret communication system was used, during the Cuban crisis.