Today was Hedy Lamarr’s birthday. She was an Austrian-born actress turned inventor. During her film career in the late 1930’s through the 50’s, she was promoted as “the world’s most beautiful woman”. After her film career ended she focused on inventing and made contributions to the Allies during World War II through these inventions as well as fundraising efforts.
Lamarr started her film career in Czechoslovakia. This early work included the controversial Ecstasy (1933), which was banned at the time in several countries including the U.S. The film contained nudity and was the first non-pornographic film to portray a female orgasm. Soon after she fled from her husband, a wealthy Austrian ammunition manufacturer, and ended up in Hollywood with a movie contract with MGM. Among Lamarr’s best known films are Algiers (1938), Boom Town(1940), I Take This Woman (1940), Comrade X (1940), Come Live With Me (1941), H.M. Pulham, Esq.(1941), and Samson and Delilah (1949).
At the beginning of World War II, she and composer George Antheil developed a radio guidance system for Allied torpedoes that used spread spectrum and frequency hopping technology to defeat the threat of jamming by the Axis powers. Although the US Navy did not adopt the technology until the 1960s, the principles of their work are incorporated into Bluetooth technology and are similar to methods used in legacy versions of CDMA and Wi-Fi. This work led to their induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2014.
A few Lamarr quotes:
“Any girl can be glamorous. All you have to do is stand still and look stupid.”