Hedy Lamarr was a well-known celebrity in 1940’s Hollywood, but few know her as the inventor of wireless communications. She invented a clandestine Communication system which was used against the Nazi armies to send secretive messages. At fixed duration it manipulates the frequency of communication between sender and receiver. This very device later paved way for the cell phone technology which we all use today.
Hedy Lamarr was born on November 9, 1914 in Vienna, Austria. She was a very successful stage icon at the age of 18 and her interest in science started after her marriage with Friedrich Mandl. Mandl was 14 years senior to her and extremely controlling and possessive of his beautiful and young wife. Hedy was not allowed to work as an actress after her marriage. She was living like a prisoner with her husband. She used to go to meetings with her husband where new technology, mostly military, were discussed.
After divorcing Randal she left Europe and moved to Hollywood in 1938. There she again started working as an actress. During her successful film and acting career in the 1940’s, she met with George Antheil, famous composer, also an author and inventor. Later the pair went on to invent a method to stop a moving torpedo from hitting its target.
Hedy Lamarr and George Antheil started discussing the idea of frequency changing for the purpose of making the device. The device could find and stop a torpedo hitting its target during its course. It could also stop the enemy to jam the torpedo. During the World War II these torpedo were most devastating artillery.
Hedy Lamarr and her inventor friend used the piano as the inspiration for their invention. Their idea was to use piano to send signals in small gap from 88 available frequency just like 88 key on the piano. For stopping the remotely controlled torpedoes from getting hijacked, she helped make a primitive version of spread spectrum technology, which is used for modern communication. It formed the background for wireless technologies- for example Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.
Hedy Lamarr did not get enough recognition for her work for many years. But recently, for her contribution in the field of communication technology she got Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) Pioneer Award along with George. She is the first lady to get the BULBIE Gnass Sprit of Achievement award which is most prestigious awards in the field of invention and technology.
Simply put the invention of Hedy Lamarr was game changing not only in the 1940’s time but even today. She proved that even a beautiful actress can invent something very useful in various ways. Hedy also proved that you don’t need to be a student of science to invent. An inventor can come from any walk of life. She can be called a woman of the century for her invention of wireless technology which is used by billions of people every day.