Monday, March 23, 2009

Hedy Lamarr and her exciting career

Today we celebrate the Ada Lovelace Day. Lovelace, Mother of Programming, she was an English aristocrat who wrote instructions for Charles Babbage's Analytical machine. Today we celebrate the women in science. so I will blog about the most recent and surprising case I came across: Hedy Lamarr.

Born Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler, in Vienna, besides being a movie star, she had a very interesting life, she created the "Frequency Hoping" method to direct missiles during World War II, but it wasn't until much later that her concept was employed. Her adventures during the pre war time, running away from his husband, an arms dealer that worked with Hitler and Mussolini despite being half Jewish would not be out of place in Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon neither. But it's sad that this part of her life is not generally acknowledged, she is more remembered by her movies and beauty.

I came across her intellectual feat reading Greg Egan's Dark Integers, where he mentions a communication technique called Hedy Lamarr. It tickled my curiosity and thanks to the advantages of this hyperlinked world of today, I grasped a bit of Lamarr's life that might not be as glamorous as the rest, but that to me is more exciting.

Even if Lamarr was an icon of classical femininity (after all, it was she who wrote: "Any girl can be glamorous, all she has to do is stand still and look stupid."), which is not the only possible choice of style and behaviour for a woman, she proves that no matter how stereotypically frivolous a person might look, what matter is what goes inside her or his head, not the silly projections we make. Fortunately, we live in times where women have increasingly the same opportunities than men, where social pressures are less overwhelming and where the expectations for women are changing, at least in some countries.

I hope that one day my sisters in Muslim countries will be able to say the same, to emulate Hedy Lamarr, in her artistic and technical achievements if they wish so.

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