Who was she?
Hedy Lamarr was an Austrian actress and Hollywood film star from the 1930s to 1950s. She was also an inventor who developed the first stages of many technological tools we still use today.
What did she do?
Often cast as the sexy starlet with very few lines, Lamarr was quickly bored with her acting roles and turned to invention to keep her mind occupied. She developed multiple projects including an improvement to traffic stoplights and a tablet that would dissolve in water to make carbonated drinks, but soon she turned her attention toward inventions that would assist with World War II.
She and her partner George Anthiel realized that radio controlled torpedoes could be easily jammed and sent off course. Together they created a jam-proof system that was based on the way player pianos work. This system would allow a torpedo’s radio signal to hop frequencies continually, making it impossible to block. Although it was patented in 1942, the US Navy didn’t implement this technology until 1960 during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Lamar and Anthiel were later inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2014 in honor of their important work.
Why does she matter?
The technology Lamar developed became the basis for Wi-Fi, bluetooth, and CDMA (code division multiple access) technology which now powers our mobile phones and computers. Without Lamar’s work on spread spectrum and frequency hopping, it’s hard to imagine what our lives would look like today.