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article image1930s actress Hedy Lamarr-inventor of cellphones, Wi-Fi and GPS

By Nancy Houser     Dec 3, 2011 in Science
Hedy Lamarr is remembered as a stunning legend in Hollywood's Golden Age. However, most people do not know that she would co-patent the technology for today's cellphones, Wi-Fi and GPS by building a torpedo for the U.S.Navy.
This may have remained the world's best kept secret if it were not for author Richard Rhodes. He had become intrigued with Hedy Lamarr after he finished 30-years of working on a four-volume set about the history of the nuclear age. One of them, "The Making of the Atomic Bomb," had earned him a Pulitzer Prize.
LA Times writer, Adam Tschorn, has reported that Rhodes has just finished writing, "Hedy's Folly: The Life and Breakthrough Inventions of Hedy Lamarr, the Most Beautiful Woman in the World." What has been found is that she was co-holder in 1942 of a patent on spread spectrum radio, a technology that would eventually underlie today's mobile and cordless telephones, the Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS.
Tschorn said that this would be similar to crediting the beautiful Fawcett for developing Google's proprietary search algorithm. It is difficult to comprehend or correlate the two together. But in reality, Hedy Lamarr was born as Hedwig Kiesler, an inquisitive young child who had been encouraged by her father to expand on this talent.
Hedy s Folly: The Life and Breakthrough Inventions of Hedy Lamarr  the Most Beautiful Woman in the W...
Hedy's Folly: The Life and Breakthrough Inventions of Hedy Lamarr, the Most Beautiful Woman in the World by Richard Rhodes
She would eventually marry Fritz Mandl, a munitions manufacturer, where she would become involved in a world filled with technical data. When she became involved as an actress in Hollywood, she had time on her hands because she did not like to drink, or go to loud and drunken parties. Invention became her hobby.
That hobby was having an inventor's corner set up in her Hollywood home that included a drafting table and tools. One of Lamarr's major inventions was the bouillon cube that would create a beverage when mixed with water. Howard Hughes lent her a pair of chemists to assist her inventor's lab. In addition to the bouillon she developed a fluorescent dog collar; a special technique to tighten the skin; and modifications to the Concorde airliner.
As time went on, she would eventually co- patent "U.S. Patent Number 2,292,387" under her married name, Hedy Kiesler Markey. Her partner would be George Antheil, the notable MGM costume designer Adrian she met in 1940 at dinner party hosted by a mutual friend. With a goal to help the U.S. military, they would combine their knowledge to develop a torpedo guidance system for the U.S. Navy. Way before the United States had entered the war, Lamarr was unhappy over the fact that German's actions would cause a ship to sink, while carrying dozens of children. The torpedo was her best project to build a better war bomb.
Lamarr and Adrian developed a method that would cause hopping or switching between radio frequencies that would prevent communications from being detected, and therefore prevent them from being jammed by enemies.
However, she would received very little, if any, recognition for her efforts. She would remain a siren of Hollywood with no credit given to her for her extreme intelligence.
"Lamarr’s effort to invent a radio-guided torpedo as a contribution to the Allied cause in World War II has been noted here and there since the 1940s." (Amarillo)
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