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Hollywood legend Hedy Lamarr was a tech innovator whose inventions quietly changed the world
File:Hedy lamarr - 1940.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

This article originally appeared on 11.09.15


Hedy Lamarr was a movie star, and a total hot commodity in Hollywood. If you look around the Internet, you'll find lots of images of her makin' out with famous dudes from the '40s.


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But Lamarr was also an incredible inventor.

She had a room in her house that was dedicated to tinkering, inventing, and just figuring out whatever she wanted!

She once said, "All creative people want to do the unexpected."

Let's be real: It was the 1940s, and no one was expecting a famous movie starlet to up and invent a torpedo radio system with the goal of fighting the Germans during World War II. But she did!


When she heard that a a German sub had torpedoed two boats carrying British children to Canada to avoid the Blitz, she was horrified.

Before Hedy became a famous movie star, she was married to an Austrian military arms merchant. And while her arms-dealing husband was chatting about weapons ... Hedy was listening. So when she got fed up with hearing about all the crappy news of the war, she called upon her own talents to make a difference.

First stop: torpedoes!

Torpedoes back then were controlled by radio signals, which meant they were easily jammed easily by evil German submarines. And Hedy was not there for that.

hedy lamarr, women in scienceUS Patent 2,292,387 - Lamarr & Antheil | Frequency Hopping: … | Flickrwww.flickr.com

So she teamed up with George Antheil, a pianist and composer, and they came up with a solution. Using a player-piano mechanism, they created a radio system that could jump frequencies, making it essentially jam-proof.

Lamarr and Antheil got a patent for their idea in 1942, in the middle of Hedy's career as a Hollywood star! And even though the U.S. military didn't use the technology until the '60s, the work they did laid the foundation for the complex radio communications that are behind cellphones, Wi-Fi, satellite tech, and more.


Not only did Hedy make space in her life to play and invent, but she took herself seriously.

She saw something she wanted to change, so she did it. She got her patent. She made a difference.

On what would have been Hedy's 101st birthday, artist Jennifer Hom celebrated her legacy creating this Google Doodle (below). Hedy's life is a masterclass in following your passion, no matter what.


Photo: Jason DeCrow for United Nations Foundation

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