While better known for her silver screen exploits and having no formal training, actress Hedy Lamarr became a pioneer in the field of wireless communications.
During World War II, the international beauty icon learned that radio-controlled torpedoes, which could be important in the naval war, could easily be jammed, thereby causing the torpedo to go off course. Lamarr, along with co-inventor George Anthiel, developed a secret communications system to help combat the Nazis. By manipulating radio frequencies it irregular intervals between transmission and reception, the invention formed an unbreakable code to prevent classified messages from being intercepted by enemy personnel.
The pair received a patent in 1942 but the significance of their invention was not realized until years later. It was first implemented on naval ships during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The “spread spectrum” technology Lamarr helped to invent would form the technical backbone which makes mobile phones and other wireless operations possible.
Lamarr received very little recognition for her innovations at the time. In 1997 she was honored with the Electronics Frontier Foundation (EFF) Pioneer Award and was the first female recipient of the Bulbie Gnass Spirit of Achievement Award, given to individuals whose creative lifetime achievements in the arts, sciences, business, or invention fields have significantly contributed to society.
Proving she was much more than just another pretty face, Hedy Lamarr shattered stereotypes and earned a place among the 20thcentury’s most important women inventors. She was a visionary whose techbological acumen was far ahead of its time.