Celebrating Women’s History Month with a Tech Twist: Hedy Lamarr – Actress and Inventor

(March 4, 2019) – As we celebrate Women’s History Month, it’s important for us at Connected Nation to recognize those who have made significant contributions in technology as we work to close the Digital Divide. One such contributor is Hedy Lamarr.

As a famous Hollywood actress in the 1930s and 1940s, Lamarr received much attention for her beauty and movies, while her contributions as an inventor were often overlooked. She had a serious interest in tinkering and inventing, working to fix issues and making things better than they were. She reportedly told aviator Howard Hughes how to modify the shape of his aircraft’s wings to make the planes faster.

At the beginning of World War II, she worked with composer George Antheil to develop a radio guidance system, which used spread spectrum communication and frequency hopping technology. This was an important invention as it would help keep remote-controlled torpedoes from being detected, jammed, or hijacked on the way to their target. The duo called their innovation Secret Communications System, and they were granted a patent in 1942. However, the U.S. military did not adopt the technology during the war.

Later on, the principles and methods of the work invented by Lamarr and Antheil were incorporated into Bluetooth technology and wifi. Unfortunately, she received little recognition for her inventions and contributions to technology during her lifetime, and she was posthumously inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2014.

Hedy Lamarr is certainly an early technology role model for women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). She saw ways she could improve inventions and also help the war effort, with the principles of her innovations still in use in today’s technology. Even her memorial site in Vienna, Austria includes the quote, “Films have a certain place in a certain time period. Technology is forever.”

Sources:

https://www.cnet.com/news/happy-100th-birthday-hedy-lamarr-movie-star-and-wi-fi-inventor/

https://www.npr.org/2011/11/27/142664182/most-beautiful-woman-by-day-inventor-by-night

https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2017/04/hedy-lamarr-documentary-clip

 

 

 

About the author: Ashley Hitt is Connected Nation’s Director of GIS Services. Ashley oversees the day-to-day operations of the GIS team. She’s responsible for developing strategies using GIS to provide data-visualization solutions that impact policy, economic development, and the digital divide.

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