I probably ought to hang my head in shame right now. The truth is that I have heard about Hedy Lamarr before now, but if you’d put me on the spot and asked exactly what she was famous for I would have stumbled a bit.
Hedy Lamarr lived two very different lives. The first was very much in the public eye as she was a glamorous movie star and moved from her native Austria to Hollywood after being spotted performing the lead role in a play.
Her second life was a secret to all but her closest friends. She was also an inventor. Not just any old inventor either. She was responsible for the invention of frequency hopping. As someone who studied electronic engineering at university, frequency hopping is something that I got to grips with as an undergraduate, but many people will be totally unaware of its significance as a means of securing American torpedo guidance systems during the second world war.
Frequency hopping was not just a military technique though. Spread-spectrum broadcasting, as it is now known, is still in use today in many devices that communicate, whether that be via mobile phone networks or wi-fi networks.
Laurie Wallmark and Katy Wu’s book about Hedy Lamar and her double life not only tells children all about her achievements both on the screen and in her inventing work, but also goes into detail about what frequency hopping actually is, and the problem it was invented to solve.
This is the first time I’ve seen a book that not only tells readers about the life of the person in questions, but also explains their scientific achievements in detail. It’s brilliant to see that technical explanation there and written very clearly so that it can easily be understood, rather than someone just deciding that the subject is too complicated for children and glossing over it. It’s therefore no surprise to find that the author also teaches computer science.
Hedy Lamarr’s Double Life is written by Laurie Wallmark and illustrated by Katy Wu. It was published by Sterling im April 2019 and has an RRP of £12.99. It is available to buy online here.
Disclaimer: We were sent a copy of Hedy Lamarr’s Double Life for the purposes of this review. All opinions remain my own. This post contains affiliate links.