Hedy Lamarr: Actress by day, tech inventor by night
Hedy Lamarr was honored with a Google Doodle. It turns out, the famous actress was also quite the inventor.
"Any girl can be glamorous,” she famously said. “All you have to do is stand still and look stupid."
Taking heed of her own aphorisms, Hollywood actress Hedy Lamarr wanted a bigger impact on the world. And so during World War II, she invented a communication device to help fight the Nazis. At the time, it was used to guide torpedoes but eventually, it would lead to the development of Wi-fi, GPS, and Bluetooth.
Honored in a Google doodle Monday, Lamarr wasn’t a typical Hollywood actress. As highlighted in the brief Google video, she juggled her fame as an exotic on-screen seductress with late nights of scientific research.
"She was really curious and had an active intellect and she was always trying to learn," Jennifer Hom of Google, who helped create the doodle, told CNN. "I like to think of her as superhero figure where you have a daytime personality and a nighttime personality."
Born in Austria as Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler, Lamarr came to Hollywood in the late 1930s and gained broad recognition in the 1940s for her roles as a femme fatale. She played opposite Clark Gable, Jimmy Stewart, and Spencer Tracey.
She was called “the most beautiful woman in film,” but to her, this was boring. As portrayed in the doodle, in her spare time, she played around with mechanics and even had a room in her house dedicated to invention.
So, she teamed up with her neighbor and composer George Antheil to create a frequency hopping system that prevented US enemies from detecting radio messages. For their contribution in wireless technology, Lamarr and Antheil were inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2014.
Here's how the National Inventors Hall of Fame describes their selection:
At 19, Lamarr had married Friedrich Mandl, a munitions manufacturer, from whom she was forced to flee in 1937, but from whom she serendipitously learned a lot about various weapons technology, including torpedo control systems. Antheil was familiar with remote control technology and spread spectrum sequences that he had used in his avant-garde compositions and performances. Together, they developed their frequency hopping communications system.
In August 1942, they were granted a patent for a “Secret Communication System” that would reduce the danger of detection or jamming for radio-controlled torpedoes. Subsequent patents in frequency changing have referred to the Lamarr-Antheil patent as the basis of the field, and the concept lies behind the principal anti-jamming devices used today. Neither Lamarr nor Antheil ever received royalty payments for the commercialization of their patent.
"She's just so cool," Ms. Hom of Google said. "She was very complicated and very accomplished at the same time."
Lamarr died in 2000. She would’ve been 101 years old Monday.