Praise for Richard Rhodes’s Hedy’s Folly:
"Fascinating. . . . mixes thorough techno research with Hollywood glam. . . . Rhodes drops quite a bombshell."USA Today
"A smart, strange and fascinating book."Washington Post
"It's to Mr. Rhodes's credit that he gently makes this implausible story plausible."New York Times
"Unveils the inquisitive brain behind the beauty.... [It] reads at turns like a romance novel, patent law primer, noir narrative and exercise in forensic psychology.” —Los Angeles Times
"Rhodes's talent is making the scientifically complex accessible to the proverbial lay reader with clarity and without dumbing down the essentials of his topics."The New York Times Book Review
"[A] charming and remarkably seamless book."—Salon
"Fascinating . . . shows Hedy Lamarr to have been a secret weapon in more ways than one."—Newsweek
"Richard Rhodes is the perfect historian to describe the abilities of Hedy Lamarr and George Antheil as scientists and inventors."Larry McMurtry, Harper's Magazine
"Richard Rhodes's book should be celebrated: he shows that even in the "information" age, there is a way to write about an American movie star that gives readers something new."The New Republic
"Hedy Lamarr, glamorous Hollywood star. Hedy Lamarr, glamorous genius inventor.
That's the gist of Richard Rhodes' Hedy's Folly . . . although, of course, it's far more complicated than that. And far more fascinating."—Philadelphia Inquirer
"Hedy's Folly is a reminder that neither time nor gravity can diminish the allure of a beautiful mind."Bloomberg Business Week
"Rhodes, who has written about everything from atomic power to sex to John James Audubon, is apparently incapable of writing a bad book and most of what he does is absolutely superior."The Daily Beast
"A riveting narrative, propelled by the ambition and idiosyncrasies of the inventors at its core."Science News
"[A]n unusual and worthwhile read."—Washington Times
"A focused glimpse into one actress’ remarkable life, and the rare mix of war, patriotism and intellect that fomented her unlikely invention."—Dallas Morning News
"Rhodes...manages to capture the sheer improbability of these unlikely Edisons."—Entertainment Weekly
"Rhodes puts Lamarr’s inventive spirit into coherent context.... [His] book gives us the whole Hedy — a closet geek in peacock feathers — and makes that mix believable."— Nature
"Riveting. . . . There’s enough technical and military history here to keep Rhodes’s hard-core fan base satisfied. But the cultural history is just as interesting, and Rhodes tells both stories with a sure and supple hand."—The New York Observer
…Rhodes is one of those few writers capable of explaining complicated scientific ideas to the general public, invariably with clarity and precision and sometimes wit and poetry as well. This is a smart, strange and fascinating book, which deserves to find an audience.
The Washington Post
Mr. Rhodes's book, culled from biographies, unpublished memoirs and other sources, doesn't present a great deal of new information. By cropping these two lives down to the size of their short-lived technological collaboration in the early '40s, however, he has isolated and framed a resonantly weird story. It's got the makingswar, glamour, obsession, the intellectual underpinnings of the digital ageof a great Errol Morris documentary.
The New York Times
Rhodes's talent is making the scientifically complex accessible to the proverbial lay reader with clarity and without dumbing down the essentials of his topics…Behind the uniqueness of this story lie deeper themes that Rhodes touches upon: the gender biases against beautiful and intelligent women, the delicate interpersonal politics of scientific collaboration and, perhaps most important of all, the never-ending, implacable conflict between art and Mammon in American culture.
The New York Times Book Review
Thank your Hollywood stars that Hedy Lamarr, who trained as an engineer, invented spread-spectrum radio with avant-garde composer George Antheil. Allowing the rapid switch of communications signals through a range of frequencies, spread-spectrum radio makes cell phones, GPS, and radio-guided torpedoes possible. I've heard this story but suspect that multiaward winner Rhodes will make it even better.
The author of The Twilight of the Bomb (2010) returns with the surprising story of a pivotal invention produced during World War II by a pair of most unlikely inventors--an avant-garde composer and the world's most glamorous movie star. Pulitzer and NBA winner Rhodes offers the stories of his two principals in alternating segments, sometimes chapter-length. The diminutive pianist/composer George Antheil--who worked with Stravinsky, Ezra Pound, Balanchine, DeMille and other notables--was also a prolific writer and inventor. And Lamarr (born Hedwig Kiesler), smitten by the theater in her native Austria, married a wealthy man charmed by Nazis; she later fled for Hollywood, where she quickly established herself as a major star in such films as Algiers and Ziegfeld Girl. She crossed trails with Antheil, who'd also moved west. Rhodes shows us that Lamarr (a new surname name suggested by the wife of Louis B. Mayer) was extremely bright (though poorly educated), a woman who had an area in her house devoted to inventing. And Antheil--who'd once composed a piece requiring 16 synchronized player pianos--had inventing interests that dovetailed with Lamarr's. They worked together to invent a way to radio-guide torpedoes and to use a technique called frequency-hopping to insure that the enemy could not jam their signals. Lamarr and Antheil secured a patent, but the U.S. Navy did not adopt the device, which, as Rhodes shows, would form the foundations of today's Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and other wireless technologies. Antheil died before earning any recognition for this achievement, but Lamarr, late in her life, did receive awards. The author quotes liberally--perhaps overly so--from the memoirs of his principals. A faded blossom of a story, artfully restored to bright bloom.