Who is this woman? And what is she famous for? page19_blog_entry124_1 If you guessed that this is Hedy Lamarr, famous actress, you would be sadly correct. You may have never seen any of her movies, but this woman has fundamentally changed your life. Aside from being beautiful and artistically talented, she was also a mathematician.

On August 11, 1942, U.S. Patent 2,292,387 was granted to Antheil and “Hedy Kiesler Markey,” Lamarr’s married name at the time. This early version of frequency hopping used a piano roll to change between 88 frequencies and was intended to make radio-guided torpedoes harder for enemies to detect or jam. Lamarr’s and Antheil’s frequency-hopping idea serves as a basis for modern spread-spectrum communication technology, such as Bluetooth, COFDM used in Wi-Fi network connections, and CDMA used in some cordless and wireless telephones. Blackwell, Martin, and Vernam’s 1920 patent Secrecy Communication System (1598673) seems to lay the communications groundwork for Kiesler and Antheil’s patent, which employed the techniques in the autonomous control of torpedoes. Lamarr wanted to join the National Inventors Council but was reportedly told by NIC member Charles F. Kettering and others that she could better help the war effort by using her celebrity status to sell War Bonds.

I’ve been thinking a lot about perceptions of women. It seems to me, and I may be wrong, that women are singularities in the cultural imagination. They can only ever be one thing. No one, (not even other women) will easily accept a woman who crosses boundaries. If you are lucky enough to be born beautiful, no one will easily see that you are smart. If you are smart enough to have a college degree and an intellectual career, few will understand if you enjoying being a stay at home mother. If you are a feminists, surely you must hate men and be a lesbian – right?

You may have noticed I’ve been away from my blog for a while. I’ve been calling on my inner Hedy Lamarr – reading about the sodium and potassium ion channels of nerve cells while cooking dinner; keeping my hair neatly colored while  preparing my bio for my research publication in the Fourth World Journal; and going out for drinks in high heels with my former Ballet students after putting my son to bed. Do you know why women are repressed and seen so superficially in most cultures? Power. The last time women were given a little time to think for themselves and had an opportunity for education in the US, within 30 years we were the driving force behind putting an end to slavery, gained the right to vote, amended the Constitution, and became on of the most powerful lobbying groups in the United States. All without really leaving the kitchen (that’s where they held their meetings).

So, the next time you think that high heels and household chores oppress women, think again. It has always been and always will be, our social values and ideas that are the vehicles of oppression. After all, as the saying goes – Fred Astaire is remember as a great dancer, but Ginger Rodgers did all the same things, only backwards and in high heels and she looked better doing it. She also reportedly cooked and canned with great success. Fred was a famously bad cook.

Ginger Rogers


  • 8 to 12 mint leaves
  • 1/2 ounce ginger syrup
  • 1 1/2 ounces gin
  • 1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
  • Ginger ale
  • Lime wedge for garnish

Put the mint in a pilsner or collins glass, cover with the syrup, and muddle lightly until the mint begins to release its aroma. Fill the glass with ice and add the gin and lime juice. Top with ginger ale. Using a bar spoon, stir the drink from the bottom up to mix. Garnish with a lime wedge.


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