My thanks to Francis Lincoln Books for a review copy of this book via Edelweiss!

Hedy Lamarr is another entry in the Little People, Big Dreams series, and one I was keen to read for two reasons; one because I have been seeing reviews of different books in the series and find them a great way to introduce young readers (and perhaps also older ones), to people from different walks of life who’ve contributed to various fields. The second is of course, the subject herself. While I’m not much into reading about celebrities, Hedy Lamarr has interested me ever since I first read about her invention with musician George Antheil of technology that formed the basis of wifi and other systems we use today.

Lamarr was certainly a fascinating person. Born in Vienna as Hegwig Eva Marie Keisler in 1914, Hedy was not only beautiful but also extremely intelligent and curious, spending childhood days sitting by her father and hearing about science and machines. With ideas much ahead of her time, she wrote down various ideas she had in a notebook (including a dog collar that lights up in the dark like we actually have today).

But she was also interested in acting and took lessons. She started her career on the continent and acted in a rather controversial film raising many eyebrows. Then she fell in love with and married an arms dealer Friedrich Mandl who turned out a controlling husband who forced her to quit her career. But while married to him, he and his colleagues would discuss military technologies and weapons in front of her, thinking Mandl’s pretty wife, Hegwig would not understand. Hedy eventually managed to escape and went to America where she built a successful acting career.

But alongside, she never left off thinking of ideas and inventions, and one such was the frequency hopping system created with her friend, the pianist George Antheil which was to help ensure that torpedos could reach their intended targets without being jammed. While she and Antheil did get a patent on the technology, it never ended up being used by the military back then, but the methods are used in GPS, Bluetooth and wifi technology among others.

It was fascinating to read this short introduction to Lamarr’s life and work, which touched on her acting career but mostly focused on her interest in science and inventions, and the most important invention with which she is credited. I liked that it highlighted how this second part of her life, her interest in inventing things continued all through even when she had built a successful acting career.

It also deals with some difficult aspects like her controversial film in the early part of her career, and the problems in her marriage because of her domineering husband and her escape from this, such that readers are aware of these issues but without going into unnecessary detail.

Besides the text and artwork by Maggie Cole, the book also has a short two page note at the end detailing Hedy’s story and achievements including her induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame (posthumously) and the naming of a satellite after her.

The only minor issue I had was in my understanding of the frequency hopping technology itself which was a bit different in the note than what I understood from reading of it online (a technology to prevent the allied forces’ missiles from being jammed rather than protecting allied planes themselves as the note says).

Though I’d still love to know more about her interest in science and the invention itself, I though this made for a great little introduction to a rather fascinating woman.

Images by Maggie Cole, via Edelweiss

Book details: Francis Lincoln Children’s Books, 2023; pp 32; edition reviewed eARC


11 thoughts on “Book Review: Hedy Lamarr by Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara and illustrated by Maggie Cole

    1. I read or saw something about her frequency technology some years ago and read a little about it online planning to look up a book on her at some point but that has still not happened so when I spotted the picture book, I thought I’d at least make a start 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  1. These ‘Little People, Big Dreams’ books are excellent. They’ve been very popular at the bookshop over the past few years, for the types of reasons you’ve mentioned here.

    If you’re interested in discovering more about Hedy Lamarr’s interest in science and technology, I can thoroughly recommend the documentary film: ‘Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story’ (if you haven’t seem it already). Don’t let the title put you off – it does cover her work on the frequency hopping technology in a reasonable amount of detail!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the recommendation. I’ve been meaning to read something about her for some time now but never did get down to finding a book. One reason why I chose to start with the Little People volume. I’ll definitely look this one up🙂


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