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Lunch with a Celebrity


Jonathan was watching some interview this morning. The interviewer asked the interviewee, "If you could have lunch with any celebrity, living or dead, who would it be?" An interesting question, one that has easy answers for some, but the motivations for the who are often more revealing than the who.

I would like to have lunch with Hedy Lamarr. The woman chose herself time and time again, with first her escape from Austria, and later with doing things that needed to be done, even if not "acceptable" by society. With no formal training, and a tinkering hobby, she still invented important creations.

At the beginning of World War II, Lamarr and composer George Antheil developed a radio guidance system for Allied torpedoes, which used spread spectrum and frequency hopping technology to defeat the threat of jamming by the Axis powers.[2] Although the US Navy did not adopt the technology until the 1960s, the principles of their work are arguably incorporated into Bluetooth technology, and are similar to methods used in legacy versions of CDMA and Wi-Fi.
In 1962 (at the time of the Cuban missile crisis), an updated version of their design at last appeared on Navy ships.[29] Lamarr and Antheil's work with spread spectrum technology contributed to the development of Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi.

An annoying part:

Their invention was granted a patent on August 11, 1942 (filed using her married name Hedy Kiesler Markey). However, it was technologically difficult to implement, and at that time the U.S. Navy was not receptive to considering inventions coming from outside the military.

Of course not, though it shows that abandoning good ideas because you didn't invent them is a really crappy idea.

The latter part of her life wasn't so great, but that makes the story interesting, to be honest.

So, yeah, Hedy Lamarr, that's who I'd like to have lunch with.


MIT used a version of this question as an admissions essay my year. My answer (1982): Teddy Roosevelt

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