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Hedy Lamarr - Brains & Beauty

Hedy Lamar - the beauty of the Silver Screen
By Joseph Holder on 7 Jun 2011 01:23 pm EDT

Take a look at that vixen of the ‘40's up there; that's Hedy Lamarr in Sampson and Delilah. Appearing in some 35 films from 1930 to 1958, Ms. Lamarr is arguably the most beautiful woman to ever grace the silver screen. So why are we writing about a film star from the last century? Take a look at that CDMA BlackBerry sitting nearby or perhaps your wireless router. Now, take another look at the woman who made all that possible.

Born Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler in Vienna Austria, Hedy began her acting career at the age of seventeen. After leaving her arms-manufacturer husband in 1937, Hedy emigrated to the United States and Hollywood. There, in the time-honored tradition of actors, Hedwig Keisler became Hedy Lamarr. It was in Hollywood that Lamarr met her neighbor, George Antheil. Little did either of them know, this chance meeting would change the future of electronics for decades to come.

Secret Communication  

World War II was already raining death and destruction on the Axis and Allied powers alike. The two Hollywood neighbors began discussing ways of guiding torpedoes by radio from an airplane. The idea wasn't new, but the Axis powers were adept at intercepting and jamming these wireless signals.

To combat this, Lamarr invented the idea of frequency hopping. Using a player piano as her inspiration, Lamarr conceived of a way to shift radio signals over different frequencies. At specific times known to the transmitter and receiver, the message would stop transmitting on one frequency and start at another. Without knowing the new frequency, jamming or trying to listen to the communication became effectively impossible.

Anthiel, Lamarr's collaborator, devised the mechanisms required to make it possible. In 1942, they were granted US Patent No. 2,292,387 "Secret Communication System." And it changed the war effort. At least it would have if anyone had been paying attention to her. Sadly her contributions to wireless technology wern't put to use until 1951; her patent was re-discovered and formed the basis of a new radio technology, spread spectrum.

Today, spread spectrum allows for many different transmissions to occur simultaneously. It forms the basis of Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) networks, WiFi networks, and even that old cordless phone in your parents' house. All can trace their roots back to Hedy Lamarr, a beautiful and brilliant woman.

Topics: Science Editorial



Great post. We need more like this :)

Adam Zeis

Agreed! Awesome post. Definitely learned something new from this one. Good stuff.


We need more women like Hedy Lamarr! Brains and beauty, it doesn't get much better than that!


Excellent post. Just proves you can learn something new everyday.


Excellent post! Some lunchtime historical information is just what I needed


Wow, didn't know that about her


Beautiful post. Thank you.


Well done, Hedy!

-A CrackHead Fan!


theres a pod cast about this on Stuff you missed in History....

How did a Hollywood starlet invent cellular technology?

Google that and it should show up.

Bison 77

Great article. Can't wait to share this at the dinner table tonight...


Excellent! More of this type of post please!


Great knowledge post. Fianlly a tid bit we can use at a party and NOT get a strange look! Well hopefully... :)


That's HEADLY LAMARR! you blithering idiots! Wow, some great makeup job they did on Harvey Korman for Blazing Saddles ;)


Haha. I kept thinking Headly Lamarr when reading it. Such a great movie.


Great post!!!!!!!! This is the type of stuff we should see more of...


Huh...looks like someone's been listing to "Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me". Ha!


Repeat after me:
Headley: I
People: I
Headley: Your Name
People: Your Name
Headley: Pledge allegiance
People: Pledge allegiance
Headley: To Hedley Lamar
People: To Hedy Lamar
People: That's Headley


I would have let her cut my hair too.


Great article and history lesson!

DJ Reyes

this sounds like data communications project lol. I researched this last year. Very interesting stuff.



Next, can we please get a Kim Kardashian and her Blackberry blog entry??? Pretty please with a cherry on top (or two). :)


more posts like this PLEASE...totally cool!


I have to agree with almost everyone, This is a GREAT post! I remember my dad talking about her as a starlet, wish he were still alive to show him this, he would have loved her even more.


That's one of those Paul Harvey "The Rest of the Story" moments.


I was thinking the same thing. great post


I read about her achievement not too long ago. I think it's awesome. It's a nice post, thank you.


PLEASE! More articles like this!


An awesome and beautiful post! Very interesting, I love articles like this. Post some more please.


Great quality post! Keep this up.


It's funny how big blackberries where in those days. They're much smaller now.


And if I'm not mistaken, didn't she do the first nude scene in cinema history?


Lamarr may have inherited her beauty from a beautiful woman and a high IQ father! According to the research there is in fact a genetic link between brains and beauty, via high status fathers, as reviewed here: