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Hedy Lamarr, the actress who used science to escape her marriage and ended up inventing WiFi

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Better known for her role as an actress than as an inventor, Hedy Lamarr She was undoubtedly a revolutionary and unusual woman for her time. Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler, as the star was called, lived a story as tumultuous as it was fascinating, which took her from the center of the cultural turmoil of Vienna at the beginning of the 20th century to the heart of Hollywood’s golden age. There she, along with her friend and musician George Antheil, devised a communication system that is today considered the grandfather of WiFi. The inventor is the protagonist of the book Hedy Lamarr: Adventurer, inventor and actress written by Maria Serrano and illustrated by Iratxe López de Munáinfor the Genios de la Ciencia collection of Vegueta Infantil editions.

“The women scientists have traditionally been made invisible in our stories of history until very recently, and those that have contributed advances in the field of engineering and technology are directly missing. Some of them are key in the development of technologies on which our daily lives depend today, such as Ada Lovelace (the software) or Hedy Lamarr (the WiFi),” says María Serrano.

“Hedy was a pioneer in many areas, -continues the author- from cinematographic narration (at 17 years old performed the first female orgasm in film history) until, at the end of his days, aesthetic surgery (he also designed forms of surgery that innovated in that field). Going through a whole spectrum of technological innovations in which he devised from an airplane for Howard Hughes, a cola drink in tablets or the technology to which this book is most dedicated, the ‘frequency hopping spread spectrum transmission system’ precursor of WiFi technology,” he concludes.

Cover of the new illustrated book ‘Hedy Lamarr. Adventurer, inventor and actress’.

Lamarr did not have an easy life. She married the arms company magnate Fritz Mandl, suffered the hell of kidnapping in his own “golden cage”, Salzburg Castle. In the face of so much loneliness, science became his escape valve and successfully completed his engineering degree. Finally, she managed to escape from her captivity and settled in the United States where she managed to become the emerging film star of the 1930s.

“What fascinates me most about her is that at a time when women found it extremely difficult to recognize their worth and their ability to do things in areas other than the domestic and child-rearing, Hedy had the courage, the ingenuity, the courage and the strength not to settle. and try to build your life on your own terms. She didn’t put anything in front of her,” says the author of the book.

The collection Science geniuses It tries to bring children, and not so children, closer to the biographies of those men and women who changed the history of humanity in the scientific field. And Hedy Lamarr deserves to be, without a doubt, on this Olympus.

“When she was already a superstar, she got tired of being offered ‘beautiful roles’, merely ornamental, and she didn’t give up either. He promoted his own productions in which women had more interesting roles.…The scientific committees, composed of men, to whom he submitted his inventions systematically despised them. She didn’t give up either and continued with his work and when, many years later, she was awarded the Pioneer Award for all the work she had done, she exclaimed: “It’s about time!”, Serrano comments.

“These types of references not only deserve that we value them for themselves, but they are a source of inspiration and encouragement, which helps us all improve our lives. He could have had an easier life and he chose not to, so as not to die of boredom. For me, all the people who make these types of choices are an example to follow, they are the ones who open the way for those of us who come behind,” concludes the writer.

Vegueta will continue publishing inspiring biographies in the coming months such as that of Copernicus, and that of another great woman who was also, for a long time, made invisible by the scientific community. None other than the astrophysicist who discovered the composition of stars, Cecilia Payne. History repeats itself.

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