This Week in History – The World’s Most Beautiful Scientist


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He’ll make the list before I do.

Every year People magazine publishes its list of the most beautiful people. (I stopped reading such lists long ago when I realized Christopher Lloyd would make that list before I do.)

Lamarr

Hedy Lamarr

One actress, who is little known these days, would’ve definitely made the list in her time: Hedy Lamarr. She was born on November 9, 1914 in Austria, but she made it to Hollywood in 1938. Louie B. Mayer, head of MGM, called her the world’s most beautiful woman. Her glamour and beauty was seen throughout films in the 40s and 50s.

Lamarr was well-known for her beauty. What she was not well-known for was her hobby. Hedy Lammar dabbled in science.

She set up a drafting table in her house just to indulge her interest in science. She designed an improved traffic light, but it was World War II that really got her thinking. As a native Austrian, she wanted to join the effort to stop Hitler. People thought she should use her glamour to sell war bonds, but she had other ideas.

Another amateur scientist was the composer, George Antheil. Lamarr and Antheil  worked together on a problem with torpedoes. A submarine could launch a radio-controlled torpedo, but the enemy often used a jamming device to mess with the radio signal. Consequently, the torpedo could be sent off-course. Lamarr and her partner invented a way to manipulate those radio frequencies at irregular intervals, making it impossible to jam the signal. For you science geeks, it’s called “Frequency Hopping Spread Spectrum.”

patentWhen the United States Navy saw the patent and heard the presentation, they were uninterested. Seriously? Yes. They said, in essence, “If this was any good, we would have already thought of it.”

So Hedy Lamarr’s great contribution to science and the war effort went unused … until 1962. Twenty years later, the military finally saw its value. But don’t think this was just some military thing. Lamarr’s invention serves as the basis for GPS, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth technology. (So the next time the sultry voice of Siri gives you directions to the closest Wal-Mart, you can thank the sultry mind of Hedy Lamarr.)

It doesn’t matter what other people think you should do (“You should help sell war bonds.”) or the opinion they have. (“ If it was any good, we would have thought of it.”) What matters is doing what you’re gifted to do and passionate about. God has given you those gifts and passions, and He desires to use you for His glory.

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Col. 3:23-24).

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