Hedy Lamarr – Much more than what meets the eye

As a world of glamour, Hollywood has given us some of the most brilliant people that have been an inspiration. Today, we will see an inspiration of another kind. We will see a new side to someone considered one of the most beautiful and talented women in Hollywood. Someone who moonlighted as an inventor! She is Hedy Lamarr!

Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler popularly known as Hedy Lamarr, was an Austrian-American actress and inventor. At the age of 19, she was married to Friedrich Mandl, whom she left before fleeing to Paris. In Paris, she met MGM head Louis B. Mayer, who offered her a movie contract in Hollywood where she became a film star, ruling the industry for more than a decade, between the late 1930s and 1950s. Mayer and the studio cast her in glamorous roles, alongside leading men. During her career, Lamarr also became a pioneer in the field of wireless communications following her emigration to the US. The international beauty icon, along with George Anthiel, invented the technology for Spread Spectrum and Frequency Hopping Communications, “Secret Communications System”, to help combat the Nazis during World War II. By manipulating radio frequencies at irregular intervals between transmission and reception, the invention formed an unbreakable code preventing classified messages from being intercepted by enemy personnel. Those inventions have more recently been incorporated into Wi-Fi, CDMA and Bluetooth technologies, and led to her being inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2014.

On August 11, 1942, US Patent 2,292,387 was granted to Lamarr and Antheil, but the enormous significance of their invention was not realized until decades later. It was first implemented on naval ships during the Cuban Missile Crisis and it subsequently emerged in numerous military applications. But most importantly, the Spread Spectrum technology that Lamarr helped invent would galvanize the digital communications boom, forming the technical backbone that makes cellular phones, fax machines and other wireless operations possible!

Not unlike other famous female inventors of yesteryear, Lamarr too received very little recognition of her innovative talent at that time, but recently she has been showered with praise for her ground-breaking invention. In 1997, Anthiel and Lamarr were honored with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) Pioneer Award and Lamarr also became the first female recipient of the BULBIE™ Gnass Spirit of Achievement Award, also known as “The Oscar of Inventing”.

Lamarr shattered stereotypes and earned a place among 20th Century’s most important women inventors by proving she was much more than just a pretty face; that she was a visionary far ahead of her time!

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