A Controversial Inventor / Hedy Lamarr
A CONTROVERSIAL INVENTOR / HEDY LAMARR
12.14.16 | KATY HALLOWELL
In the Golden Age of Hollywood in the 1940's there was no shortage of women who were emblems of beauty and glamour to grace the silver screen...
The decade was filled with women who have become film icons, archetypes for what a star should look like and how she should act — demure and coy, but still subtly provocative. Of the dozens of women who fell into this penultimate category there was one woman whose personal story elevated her to an entirely different level of stardom, Hedy Lamarr. This caliber of fame was assisted by her fame as an international actress, but it lay in an entirely different genre of accomplishment. The Austrian-born Lamarr, was an inventor and a majorly influential one at that.
Hedy's acting career started in Europe where she appeared in films considered to be very controversial for the time. In the film that kickstarted her career, Ecstasy (1933), she appeared fully nude numerous times. After completing the project Lamarr disappeared from Vienna and moved to Paris in secret leaving behind her first husband. Her career ultimately led her to Hollywood where she acted alongside some of Hollywood's greatest: Bob Hope, Judy Garland, Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy and Lana Turner.
In the midst of World War II Hedy starred in films and contributed her personal efforts toward defeating Nazi Germany. With the assistance of her friend, composer George Antheil, Lamarr constructed an encrypted radio system - to prevent enemy hacking - inspired by piano rolls. Piano rolls are punched paper used to store note data for reproduction. Ultimately Lamarr and Antheil used the technology they invented to prevent enemy interference in torpedo navigation. This technology has remained in active use by the US Military in the decades following WWII. The technology Lamarr invented proved to be a critical element in the designing and creating of WiFi and Bluetooth.
The image and graphic above demonstrate the operational system of Lamarr's invention. We're all about multi-tasking, but we relinquish our crown to Hedy. Lamarr's design was in its final stages between 1941-1943. In those years she also managed to have two children, star in four movies, divorce one man and marry another. That being said, one of Lamarr's hobbies was marriage — she tied the knot six times in thirty years. Commitment issues much? Hedy does get a pass however, given that her life's work provided us not only with entertainment, but internet. And like it or not that's something we are unaccustomed to living without these days. Lamarr disavowed the Hollywood lifestyle that would minimize her to be no more than a girl on screen when she came to believe, “any girl can be glamorous. All you have to do is stand still and look stupid.” It was around this time that Hedy resumed her work as an inventor.
Hedy was essentially, Wonder Woman. She pushed boundaries as a female actress in European cinema, nurtured her intellect and lived only for herself. When she hit middle age she cited psychoanalysis as the cause of her emotional freedom and philosophical outlook. Despite her direct involvement in furthering technology she was aware of it's potentially negative impact, seeing that "the world isn't getting any easier. With all these new inventions I believe that people are hurried more and more...the hurried way is not the right way; you need time for everything - time to work, time to play and time to rest." Lamarr was a woman ahead of her time and there's plenty more to learn about her evolution as an inventor online. If you're feeling Hedy after reading we recommend Samson and Delilah and Ziegfeld Girl.