The Only Woman in the Room, by Marie Benedict ,is a new book about the 1940s movie star Hedy Lamarr, her background in Europe, and her scientific skill that led her to develop some of the technology currently used in cell phones.
Sound unusual? It was, and Lamarr was not taken seriously as a scientist during the height of her stardom. But she patented her work, and those patents were used, beginning in the 1950s, to create various technical inventions that led eventually to wireless technology.
The book details Lamarr’s background in Austria. She never went to college, but possessed insatiable curiousity that her father helped develop by explaining processes like photosynthesis.
At a young age, Lamarr starred in a film called Ecstasy, in which she appeared nude, and simulated a sexual act. After this, she returned to the Austrian stage. The book details her early marriage to an arms dealer who kept Benito Mussolini supplied and may have conducted transactions with Hitler.
In the midst of all this, Lamarr is busy serving dinners and looking glamorous under the eyes of her very strict husband. She overhears conversations that reveal secrets about the Axis powers and the Third Reich. As a Jew, Lamarr is terrified and makes plan to flee her husband and Austria, soon to be annexed to Germany.
Lamarr makes her way to Hollywood, leaving her husband and mother behind, and becomes a star quite quickly. But as events proceed in Europe, Lamarr is plagued with guilt. If only she had spoken out, perhaps Hitler would not have been able to carry out his secret plans. Thus, her drive to create new torpedo technology ensues.
A great deal is surmised in the novel, from her relationship to her parents and first husband to the exact manner in which she creates the technology. It’s interesting, but very workmanlike. The six times-married star, however, was undoubtedly an accomplished woman.
The Only Woman in the Room will not be published until January, 2019.