Paul Salvaterra Scholar

In 2014 the Eugene and Ruth Roberts Summer Student Academy inaugurated a special award to honor Paul Salvaterra who has directed the Academy program for the last 40 years.
 
The named award, the Paul Salvaterra Scholar, was given to the student who wrote the best essay about a scientist that they most admire.
 
 

Stephanie Patterson, Vivian Luong, and Mrs. Ruth Roberts

THE 2017 WINNING ESSAY

By Vivian Luong, a rising senior at the University of California, Riverside.

The Scientist I Admire Most
 
Hedy Lamarr could be described as a woman of beauty and brains. Born as Eva Maria Kiesler in Vienna, Austria on November 9, 1914, she starred in her first film, “Geld auf der Straße,” at the age of 17. After making it in Hollywood, she changed her name to Hedy Lamarr and appeared in “Algiers,” John Steinbeck’s “Tortilla Flat,” “White Cargo,” Cecil B. DeMille’s “Samson and Delilah,” and “The Female Animal.” Not only was she “the most beautiful woman in film,” but she was also highly intelligent and worked closely with composer George Antheil. Together, they patented the Secret Communication System in 1941, a highly important component of technology for the military during World War II and the cell phone industry. While combating the Nazis during World War II, Lamarr understood that radio signals between American aircrafts were easily jammed, causing torpedoes to deviate from their original course. She asked, “Can you guide your torpedo towards an enemy target- or just use radio control period- without being detected or jammed?” Thus, the concept of frequency hopping was born. American weapons transmitted rapidly changing radio signals, or “hopping frequencies,” that made aircrafts and weapons significantly harder to detect and jam. The receiver and transmitter would know the randomized frequency sequence well ahead of time, but the Germans would not. As Lamarr states, “No jammer could detect it, no German code-breaker could decipher a completely random code.” This technology was beyond its time and was originally rejected because the military did not accept any outside inventions. However, it was implemented during the Cuban missile crisis of 1962 and is now used in wireless technology, such as cell phones. In 1997, she became the first woman to ever receive the Invention Convention’s BILBIE Gnass Spirit of Achievement Award recognized by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
 
Lamarr was an extraordinary actress and inventor of her time. I look up to her because she shattered stereotypes and was able to envision that technology would play a major role in the next century. Now, everything relies on technology: medical devices, biotechnology, communication via email, cell phones, optical imaging, LED light bulbs, entertainment, self-driving cars, and so on. Her vision to see so far into the future amazes me. Despite her intelligence being a key aspect of why I chose to write about Hedy Lamarr, another key aspect was her compassion. During the time she invented frequency hopping and was a big star in Hollywood, she still felt the need to contribute to society and did not live a lavish lifestyle while the world was at stake. Therefore, she used her “tinkering” hobby to invent the Secret Communication System to help American soldiers come home to their families and friends. Her compassion and need to contribute to society through inventions are values that I believe should be recognized. She was a pioneer of her time, inventor, and a talented actress who will always be remembered.