Friday, 24 May 2019

ReadItDaddy's Second Book of the Week - Week Ending 24th May 2019: "Hedy Lamarr's Double Life - People Who Shaped Our World" by Laurie Wallmark and Katy Wu (Sterling Children's Books)

Our Second Book of the Week is a timely and very welcome picture book taking a look at the life of a stunning inventor who just happened to be a hollywood actress on the side.

Well, if you look at the life of Hedy Lamarr in that way, then "Hedy Lamarr's Double Life - Hollywood Legend and Brilliant Inventor"by Laurie Wallmark and Katy Wu makes a lot of sense.

From an early age Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler (Hedy's real name) was an inquisitive and well-read child, who would accompany her father on visits to local museums and galleries in their home town in Austria.

Hedy also loved the movies, falling in love with the silent movies and early 'talkies', becoming a talented mimic for lines and voices she'd hear in those amazing films.

But her inquisitive mind stayed with her even as her early acting career took off in Hollywood, and her name changed. After a tough day's shoot on a movie set she'd return to her room, repurposed as a workshop and drafting studio, and work on many, many inventions.

A hugely underrated contributor to something we all now take for granted. Without Hedy Lamarr's genius, our wireless communications for mobile devices would be extremely insecure

Hedy dreamed up all sorts of clever gadgets from an extendable tissue box with a concertina pocket for used tissues (ew!) to a revolutionary set of traffic lights that would pre-warn drivers when a signal was about to change.

But it was during the war years that Hedy Lamarr began to draft her idea for something that could prevent the jamming of wireless torpedo signals for the US Navy that she came up with the core theory for 'frequency hopping' - a method of ensuring that wireless signals could neither be jammed nor intercepted, thus preventing interference from enemies deploying jamming technology to divert torpedoes at sea.

The basic concepts in her frequency hopping idea are still used today to ensure that wireless and bluetooth signals are kept secure, employing a similar encoding method in modern wireless-dependent devices.

Throughout her life, Hedy fought against the preconception that a pretty hollywood actress was just that - but behind her stunning beauty was a fantastic analytical brain that was constantly busy with new ideas and concepts.

It's taken decades for her ground-breaking theories to be recognised for what they actually are - a vital part of what we take for granted in our modern wireless-connected world. It's actually being recognised even where I work, where we've named meeting rooms after Hedy Lamarr, thanks to her contributions to mobile computing.

This is a thoroughly fascinating and beautifully produced picture book filled with tons of inspirational quotes from Hedy herself, perfect for boys and girls who love inventing things and love asking (and answering) questions.

Sum this book up in a sentence: A brilliant biography of one of the world's most underrated and underestimated scientific geniuses, but also one of hollywood's greatest actors.

"Hedy Lamarr's Double Life" by Laurie Wallmark and Katy Wu is out now, published by Sterling Kids (kindly supplied for review).