Monday, November 9, 2015

Limericks for Hedy Lamarr

     When seeking to draft a poem quickly, it is useful to have some sort of pattern to follow -- a pattern helping to dictate word choice.  This morning, upon discovering Google's online celebration of the 101st birthday of inventor and actress Hedy Lamarr, I have wanted to join the commemoration with a poem.  A verse pattern rather often used by hasty math writers is the limerick (see links below) -- and I have today constructed this pair of limericks to praise Lamarr.

     May a beautiful actress present
     Skills beyond stage and screen content?
          Yes!  Hedy Lamarr
          Excelled as a star,
     And had also talent to invent!  

     Her ideas were at first classified,
     But their value could not be denied--
          This skilled creator
          Had designs that later
     Emerged and were widely applied.

Lamarr and a colleague, George Antheil, applied for a patent for their frequency-hopping technology (later called spread-spectrum) in 1941 -- and the idea finally went public in 1976, thirty-five years later.  Information about Hedy Lamarr's inventions is available online here -- and, in more detail, in a fine new book by Rachel Swaby, Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science -- and the World (Broadway Books, 2015).
     Lots of limerick-examples are available on the internet -- including a PDF of limericks by Marion Cohen about math-women  and a varied collection collected by math teacher Terry Trotter (1941-2004).

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