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Hedy Lamarr

Page history last edited by Jonathan-Henry Chery 10 years, 1 month ago

Hedy Lamarr 

            By: Jonathan-Henry Chery


      Hedy Lamarr (b. 9 November,1914 -d. 19 January, 2000) was an inventor and actress born in Austria under the name of Headwig Eva Maria Kiesler. She was mostly known for   her acting, however she was the inventor of Spread Spectrum and Frequency Hoping technology which preceded  all modern wireless communications. 



     Hedy’s father Emil Kiesler was a banker and her mother was a pianist. The Kieslers were assimilated Jews, though Hedy kept her religion a secret throughout her life. As an only child she would spent a lot of time with her father, he would explain to her how everything works from printing to streetcars. She said that her father's enthusiasm for technology links her lifelong interest in invention.

     Since her early years she wanted to be an actress, she referred to herself as a “living copybook” because she tried to act like everyone she saw, from her mother to the servants. She attended the same school as Sigmund Freud's daughter, where she took acting classes(ref). However her academic career was short lived because she dropped out of school at the age of 16 in order to become a professional actress.

     She got roles in a movie called Glef auf der Strasse (Money in the Streets) and another called Strum im Wasserglass (Storm in a Water Glass) which gave her popularity but her real ground breaking role was in Ekstase. Her success got the attention of American producers which resulted in her moving to America. In the States, she acted along side most of the great American actors of the era.

     Hedy would later meet George Antheil, an American composer , pianist and inventor . He created the wrote the score for Ballet Mécanique using a player piano mechanism . They thought of the technology to guide torpedoes and prevent them from being intercepted. She thought of the frequency hopping and he provided the means of making possible using his Ballet Mécanique technology. The torpedoes would be controlled using identical player piano rolls that would randomly change. This would make it impossible for the enemies to intercept because of they can’t figure out which frequency was being used. A patent was issued in the name of Hedy and George. Unfortunately the idea was rejected by the U.S. Navy because they doubted Hedy’s capacities and they thought it was too basic of an idea.

     Hedy was instead assigned to campaign for funds in the support WWII. However she did not stop inventing for it was her passion, she invented things from a better Kleenex box to a different kind of traffic signal. However these inventions never went anywhere.

     As time went on, her marriages failed and her acting career crumbled. She received and an award from Electronic Frontier Foundation for her accomplishments. 20 years after, she watched her technology being used by other inventors because her patent expired. She died alone of multiple heart diseases in Florida at the age of 85.


Famous For

     Hedy was mostly known for acting and her beauty. She was deemed “The most beautiful woman in the world” by the soldiers aboard. She once said :” Any girl can be glamorous, all you have to do is stand still and look stupid. The real highlight of her career is her invention of spread spectrum technology. This technology allowed both the transmitters and receivers to randomly change frequency. The system had 80 frequencies that it could hop trough which made it extremely difficult to intercept.

     Unfortunately the NAVY refused her invention and her patent went to waste. The technology was never used for it’s intended purpose which was for guiding torpedoes. However it became the basis for satellite communications, cellular phones and a major portion of wireless communication.


Interesting Facts

  • Hedy was married seven times and one of them was Friedrich Mandl, the chairman of a leading Austrian armaments firm. Hitler and Mussolini attended his parties.

  • Even after her ground breaking invention , she was not admitted in the National Inventors Council.

  • Hedy was a proud supporter of the troops, even though her intellectual efforts were not accepted, she used toured the US to raise funds for the was. She single-handedly raised more than $7 million dollars for the war in one evening .

  • She never stopped inventing she, she invented as a way to free herself. Her inventions ranged from a better Kleenex box to weapons.

  • She never profited from her inventions for the patents expired by the time the technology was recognized.

  • She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.


Impact on 21st Century Society and Culture 

      Hedy’s fingerprint is deep in our society. Wireless technology rules most of our means of communications and she is the mother of it. Her technology is used in GPS, cell phones, WiFi, satellite Communications, most military communications systems, etc...  She is the reason why you are alble to read this document. 


Work Cited

Couey, Anna . " The birth of spread spectrum." Harvard University. Harvard Archives. 1997 .


     Web . 4  April 2014


Ivanis, Dan . "Boeing Frontiers Online."Boeing .Boing Archives. 3 Nov. 2003.


     Web. 23 Apr. 2014. 


Rhodes, Richards.Hedy's Folly: The Life and Breakthrough Inventions of Hedy Lamarr, the Most Beautiful Woman in the World.


     New York: Vintage Books, 2011. Print


"Hedy Lamarr." Role Models in Science & Engineering Achievement. USA Science & Engineering Festival.  n.d.


     Web. 23 April 2014





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