BOOK REVIEW: Hedy’s Folly: The Life and Breakthrough Inventions of Hedy Lamarr, the Most Beautiful Woman in the World by Richard Rhodes | Science News

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BOOK REVIEW: Hedy’s Folly: The Life and Breakthrough Inventions of Hedy Lamarr, the Most Beautiful Woman in the World by Richard Rhodes

Review by Nick Bascom

By
12:59pm, December 2, 2011

In Rhodes’ newest book, the prolific Pulitzer Prize–winning author (The Making of the Atomic Bomb) once again interweaves moving biographical portraits with dramatic depictions of scientific discovery.

The bulk of Hedy’s Folly centers on an unlikely invention team — Hedy Lamarr, a golden age Hollywood starlet, and George Antheil, a firebrand American composer. As the plot unfolds, the pair invents a frequency-hopping radio device to help American torpedoes evade enemy guidance-jamming systems in World War II.

Rhodes proves adept at elucidating the science behind this invention and the subsequent development of spread-spectrum systems (which today enable the use of cell phones and Wi-Fi), but his particular genius lies in placing the invention within a tumultuous historical moment. Antheil brushes shoulders with artistic luminaries such

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