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How Actress Hedy Lamarr Became the Inventor Responsible for Your Wi-Fi Connection
April 26, 2021
Today, wireless communication is something we tend to take for granted. Most of us probably have no idea how our Bluetooth devices, cell phones, and Wi-Fi networks function. It might surprise you to know that the technology behind them was invented during WWII by a talented actor and an avant-garde pianist.
By 1940, Hedy Lamarr’s stunning looks and captivating sensuality had made her one of the most sought-after stars in the United States. On the outside, she embodied the style of a classic Hollywood bombshell, from a glamorous persona to an almost stereotypical slew of failed marriages. On the inside, Lamarr was a brilliant inventor who longed to contribute to the war effort as Nazi submarines dominated the Atlantic.
‘The most beautiful woman in the world’
It was movie mogul Louis B. Mayer who gave actor Hedwig Kiesler that title and the name Lamarr after she signed on with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1937. The Austrian-born beauty was blessed with raven hair, a shapely figure, and striking eyes that reportedly varied in color from hazel to bluish-green. According to The Guardian, actor George Sanders described her as “so beautiful that everybody would stop talking when she came into a room.”
Lamarr was discovered by Max Reinhardt and attended acting classes at his drama school in Berlin. “I had heard father and mother speak of the wonderful Max Reinhardt, so I hurried that day to his theatre,” Lamarr is quoted as saying on IMDb. “I stood in the back and watched his pupils rehearse. Then an elderly man approached me. He said almost gruffly, ‘I don’t like to have people stare at my work. If you must watch, at least join in with the rest.’ I was petrified. Too scared to move. But I did. I was assigned several lines. Later I asked who he was. He was the celebrated theatrical producer, Max Reinhardt, himself.”
She began appearing in German films at the age of 16. At 18 she gained international fame and notoriety as the adulterous wife of an older man in the 1933 Czechoslovakian film, Ecstasy. The movie was considered shocking and controversial because Lamarr appeared nude and in the first sex scene in film history, according to Marie Claire. She worked in 35 films over the course of her 28-year acting career and is best known today for her sultry performance in Cecil B. DeMille’s 1949 blockbuster, Sampson and Delilah, which won two Oscars.
The brilliant mind of Hollywood legend Hedy Lamarr
Mar 10, 2018
The actress Hedy Lamarr captivated audiences during the 1930s and 1940s in films like “Algiers” and “Ziegfeld Girl,” and became known as an iconic beauty. “Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story,” a new documentary, showcases her overlooked achievements in technology, including her work on an invention that helped form the basis for Wi-Fi. NewsHour Weekend’s Megan Thompson spoke to Alexandra Dean, director of the film, which airs May 18 on American Masters.
Lamarr invents a secret torpedo guidance system
How Hedy Lamarr Developed a Secret Communications System
American Masters PBS
May 14, 2018
The breakdown behind Hedy Lamarr’s frequency hopping technology
Learn what inspired Hedy Lamarr to create frequency hopping, a type of secure radio communication to help combat the Nazis in World War II.
Wow! Who knew!
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