Thursday, 7 February 2019

Hedy Lamarr's Double Life by Laurie Wallmark

During a long-haul flight recently I happened upon a documentary about Hedy Lamarr. Naturally writing for Tech Age Kids, I knew who she was and I was curious to find out more about her life. (Her birthday is 9 November and we celebrated her life on the blog.) It was a fascinating documentary and well worth a watch if you can find it online.

When Laurie Wallmark contacted us for another blog tour about her new book, Hedy Lamarr's Double Life, I was delighted to invite her back to the Tech Age Kids blog. We asked Laurie a few questions about writing the book and Lamarr's life and she kindly shared some pages from the book to publish in this article.

Hedy Lamarr's Double Life is beautifully written with wonderful illustrations, sharing a balanced view of her life both in the public eye and her personal explorations. She was a remarkable woman, that is often not remembered in history for the things she would have said were important. Her story is a powerful message of how stereotyping children (people) can greatly affect their career choices and how they perceive themselves.

Hedy Lamarr's Double Life is now available on Amazon US | Amazon UK and other bookstores.

Laurie has also written about other women in history that have played an important role in the development of computing and technology, including Ada Lovelace and Grace Hopper.

Here's what Laurie Wallmark had to say about her new book, Hedy Lamarr's Double Life:

Do you think it will still be surprising for a current Hollywood celebrity to also be an inventor?

I definitely think people are still surprised to find out someone can both be an actor and a scientist or mathematician. Two people come quickly to mind, both of whom started acting as children. Mayim Bialik, currently on the TV show The Big Bang Theory, has a PhD in Neuroscience. Danica McKellar, known for her role in The Wonder Years, has a degree in mathematics and writes math books for kids.

How can Hedy's story help change the mindset of girls who are so influenced by appearance-focussed media?

When the only image you see of scientists is of men, you internalize the idea that you have to be male to be a scientist. Children (both girls and boys) need role models to counter this view. Picture book biographies of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) can appeal to children at an earlier age, before these stereotypes become ingrained.

What can modern parents learn from Hedy's father and the way he encouraged her curiosity?

Most children are naturally curious about the world around them. The best way to nurture this curiosity is not to discourage it. Instead of a giving a quick answer and moving on, instead think about asking open-ended questions like, “Why do you think…” or “How might this work?”.

What was your favourite discovery about Hedy's life?

I knew about Hedy’s major invention, spread-spectrum frequency hopping, but didn’t realize she had invented many other products, none of which she patented. These ranged from a glow-in-the-dark dog collar to a device to help people out of the bathtub to a traffic signal that told people when the light was about to change. Of course, these inventions are now part of our everyday lives, but when Hedy thought of them, they were unheard of.

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