“The brains of people are more interesting than the looks I think,”
Hollywood actress and inventor Hedy Lamarr
Born Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler in Vienna in 1914, Hedy Lamarr is best-known as a glamorous movie star of the 1930s and 1940s, starring in Oscar-nominated films ‘Algiers’ and ‘Sampson and Delilah’. However, Hedy left a far greater legacy as a scientist and inventor.
Whilst filming for Metro Goldwyn and Meyer in Hollywood in the 1930s, Hedy would undertake experiments in her trailer, with equipment provided by her friend Howard Hughes.
At one point, Howard was trying to figure out a way to make his aeroplane fly faster. Hedy deduced that his plane’s wings were too square, so she began studying the shape of birds' wings and how fish were streamlined and she created a new kind of wing shape for Howard's plane.
In 1941, Hedy filed for a patent, with her friend George Antheil, for frequency-hopping technology for radio transmission, that would stop Allied torpedos being detected by the Nazis. Due to technological limitation at the time, Hedy's invention was not implemented by the US military until 1962. However, it became a precursor to the secure wi-fi, GPS and Bluetooth now used by billions of people around the world.
Hedy Lamarr's patent, filed in 1942 for radio frequency hopping
Hedy Lamarr and George Antheil are now widely recognized as the inventors of frequency hopping and for their contribution to modern communications technology. In 1997, when Lamarr was 82, the Electronic Frontier Foundation honoured her with two awards for her achievement. In 2014, Hedy Lamarr was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, some 14 years after her death.
'Bombshell - The Hedy Lamarr story', is available on Netflix