Hedy Lamarr (1914 – 2000) had a reputation in the 40’s and 50’s for being the most beautiful woman in Hollywood.
Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler was born in Austria-Hungary, but left her first husband in 1933 and came to the United States, where she continued her acting career under the stage name Hedy Lamarr.
In 1933, she starred in the controversial Ectasy, where she had an infamous nude scene. Since Ectasy was the first non-pornographic film to portray sexual intercourse, including female orgasm, MGM head Louis Mayer insisted she use a different name.
Ms. Lamarr was much more than a pretty face, though. She and composer George Antheil co-developed a radio guidance system for Allied torpedoes, which used a frequency-hopping spectrum to prevent Axis forces from jamming them. The pair applied for, and obtained, a patent for the idea.
Although the idea of radio control for torpedoes was not new, the concept of “frequency hopping” was. Broadcasting over a seemingly random series of radio frequencies, switching from frequency to frequency at split-second intervals, prevented radio signals from being jammed. The receiver would be synchronized to the transmitter to allow the two to jump frequencies together. If both the sender and the receiver were hopping in sync, the message would transmit clearly. Anyone trying to eavesdrop would hear only random noise, similar to a radio dial being spun. Lamarr developed the idea of radio control; Antheil’s contribution was to suggest the device by which synchronization could be achieved. After consultation with a California Institute of Technology Professor, Lamarr and Antheil obtained their patent on a “Secret Communication System” on August 11, 1942.
The Navy didn’t adopt the technology until long after WWII, but it eventually led to wi-fi, which is why Hedy Lamarr has both a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame posthumously.
Gal Gadot, the Israeli actress who played DC’s Amazon princess, will be both playing the real life STEM princess Hedy Lamarr and serving as one of the Showtime series’ executive producers. Another executive producer will be Emmy nominee and Golden Globe winner Sarah Treem ( producer and writer of The Affair, House of Cards, and How to Make It in America).
Lamarr made thirty movies in a career that spanned almost three decades. She was the first woman to receive the Invention Convention’s BULBIE Gnass Spirit of Achievement Award.