Hedy Lamarr, born in 1914 as Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler, is remembered primarily as one of the most famous and beautiful actresses of the 20th century. She had a starring role in many movies like Algiers and Samson and Delilah, but too few people know about her incredible credentials as an inventor. If you’re using a computer that’s connected to Wi-Fi, or listening to music on bluetooth headphones, you should thank Hedy Lamarr.
In the early 1940s, with the aid of composer George Antheil, Hedy Lamarr invented frequency hopping radio signals as a new and sophisticated way of encrypting communication. Though she presented the concept for military use in 1942, the National Inventors Council rejected it and suggested her status as a celebrity would be more useful to the war effort than her brilliant inventions.
The technology was not put into practice until a contractor used it in the 1950s in submarine detection technology. After that the use of the technology exploded, but it took until 1997 for Hedy Lamarr to be properly recognized for her invention. By then, she was more than 80 years old. Frequency-hopping signal technology is now considered the basis of vital technology that most of us use every single day: Wifi, Bluetooth, and GPS.
Further Reading at USC:
Blackburn, Renée: The Secret Life of Hedy Lamarr
Coleman, Christopher: An Introduction to Radio Frequency Engineering
Jatoth, Ravi Kumar ; Mani, V .V ; Kumar, T. Kishore: Electronics and Communication Engineering: Applications and Innovations
Rhodes, Richard: Hedy’s Folly : The Life and Breakthrough Inventions of Hedy Lamarr, The Most Beautiful Woman In The World
Blackburn, R. (2017). The secret life of Hedy Lamarr. Science, 358(6370), 1546–1546.
George, A. (2019, April 04). Thank This World War II-Era Film Star for Your Wi-Fi. Retrieved July 02, 2020.