By Andrew Impey
Many people thought Hedy was the most beautiful woman in Hollywood at the time and over the years a total of six husbands thought exactly the same. Often outspoken, Hedy once stated, "Any girl can be glamorous, all she has to do is stand still and look stupid."
Despite all the glitz and glamour, under that beautiful exterior was an incredible mind, both brilliant and inventive. She was a quick learner, seemingly soaking up information from whom ever she was with. Her first husband, Fritz Mandal, worked on control systems in military aircraft. Hedy obviously picked up a few useful tips before their split in 1937 because three years later she went on to co-invent the torpedo guidance system some twenty years before its time.
In one of the most astonishing transformations of modern time, Hedy went from being a silver screen temptress to an engineering goddess. Far from just being an iconic sex symbol, she could also explain the functioning of a frequency-hopping spread spectrum – and that’s no mean feat. In 1941, together with co-inventor George Antheil, she submitted her secret radio-guided torpedo system which allowed a torpedo to switch (or hop) between 88 different frequencies, making it virtually impossible for the enemy to track and detect the underwater onslaught.
The system was so advanced the US Navy said it was unworkable and poured scorn on the explanation that certain parts of it worked like the fundamental mechanism of a player piano. Technology did eventually catch up and in 1962 her system was finally put in place by the Navy.
Hedy didn’t make any money from her patent and she wasn’t even allowed to join the National Inventors Council. Maybe they just couldn’t cope with such brains and beauty all in the same body.
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