Surely known for her beauty and talent as an actress, Hedy Lamarr has also contributed to science thanks to her work with wireless technologies.
Hedy Lamarr, born in Vienna in 1914 as Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler, started her career as an actress at the age of 17, when she got a role in the German film Geld auf der Straße. Afterwards, she continued working for German and Czechoslovakian projects. Due to her role in the German film Ekstase (1932), Hollywood producers focused on her. Soon after, she concluded a contract with MGM. She changed her name to Hedy Lamarr and got roles in important films such as Algiers (1938), Tortilla Flat (1942), White Cargo (1942), Samson and Delilah (1949) and The Female Animal (1957) and acted with Charles Boyer, Spencer Tracy, Clark Gable and Jimmy Stewart.
“The world isn’t getting any easier. With all these new inventions I believe that people are hurried more and pushed more… The hurried way is not the right way; you need time for everything – time to work, time to play, time to rest.”
– Hedy Lamarr
Hedy Lamarr was not only a talented actress, but also intelligent and an inventor. With her patented idea Secret Communication System (1942), together with composer George Antheil, she created the base for the secure military communications and the mobile phone technology. Firstly, during the World War II, this system was used to prevent enemies from blocking signals from radio-controlled missiles, by changing radio frequencies so that enemies couldn’t detect the transmitted messages. After the invention of the transistor and its smaller version, Hedy Lamarr contributed successfully to the military and mobile phone industry.
Hedy Lamarr was not only “The Most Beautiful Woman in Films”, as she was called, and talented actress and star, but an intelligent, inventive and visionary woman. Because of her technological achievements she is definitely an important woman in science.
She died in Orlando, Florida, in 2000.
“Hope and curiosity about the future seemed better than guarantees. That’s the way I was. The unknown was always so attractive to me… and still is.”
– Hedy Lamarr
For more women in science check out my first post: Women in Science #1