Hedy LamarrCredit: pwarlick - Public Domain

A celebration of women of history is happening in the month of March. Hedy Lamarr is one of those women who has been recognized as a leader in her time. Who was Hedy Lamarr? She was a beautiful, often referred to as “the most beautiful woman in films,” and a talented actress who starred in 36 films that spanned over a fifty-nine year period, but she accomplished so much more that changed the face of military and civilian communications forever.

Hedy Lamarr was born in Vienna, Austria-Hungary, on November 9, 1914, as Hedwig Eva Maria Kieslar. She was born an only child of Jewish parents. She began studying the arts at the young age of 10 when her mother piano and ballet class. By the time she was 17, she starred in her first German film called Geld Auf Der Strase. She continued to work in the film industry until a 1938 film caught the eye of Hollywood producers, and by 1938 she starred in her first film here in the states. She landed many leading parts and starred with the top leading men during the “Golden Age” of Hollywood.

Before her big debut in Hollywood, Hedy Lamarr had wed Friedrich Mandl back in 1933. Friedrich Mandl was chairman of a leading Austrian armaments firm. He was a prominent fascist who held parties that where attended by Benito Mussolini and Adolph Hitler. He was a very controlling husband and she hated him for being involved with these dictators of the day. Pretending to be the maid, she snuck away from there home with her jewels and fled to Paris. From there she moved to London and changed her name to Hedy Lamarr. During her marriage to Friedrich, she was exposed to many military technologies. With no military background, she still understood the technology of the day because of her math skills. This exposure would eventually lead her to co-patent spectrum radio frequencies for a Secret Communications System.

After immersing herself in the Hollywood lifestyle, Hedy Lamarr met a famous composer from Europe named George Antheil at a local party. Early in his musical career he had been forced to leave Europe as Adolph Hitler was closing the German opera houses in that country. He too hated the Nazis. After he and Lamarr became close, she shared her idea about the Secret Communication System that could guide torpedoes without being detected because of spectrum radio frequencies. The only flaw in which Antheil resolved using his musical background was a synchronization of radio frequencies between transmitter and receiver. Together they patented this idea and gave the rights to the government to use in the war effort during WWII. Due to the Navy’s lack of confidence in this new system, the technology was never used during the war.

After the military declassified spread spectrum technology, it’s application began showing up in newer technology due to it’s frequency hopping abilities. Namely, the cell phone is a product of this invention. There is also a demand for the use of radio waves in other technologies. This Hollywood starlet changed the lives of millions with her invention of spread-spectrum technology and entertained us with her beauty and talent at the same time.

“Jack Kennedy always said to me, Hedy, get involved. That’s the secret of life. Try everything. Join everything. Meet everybody.” Hedy Lamarr.

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