- Sharon Hagle
Happy Birthday Hedy Lamarr
Many fans of the Golden Age of Hollywood may remember Hedy Lamarr as the gorgeous movie siren who lit up the screen in such great film hits as Boom Town, Samson and Delilah and The Female Animal. However, I would argue that Lamarr’s greatest contribution happened behind the curtain as an entrepreneur and inventor.
Born Hedwig Eva Maria on November 9, 1914 in Austria, Lamarr started her film career in Czechoslovakia before moving to Hollywood, and signing a contract with the iconic Louis B. Mayer and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios. While in Hollywood, Lamarr developed a close relationship with tycoon Howard Hughes. Hughes supported her experiments, putting his team of scientists and engineers at her disposal. It was Lamarr who suggested to Howard Hughes that he change the square design of his aeroplanes to a more streamlined shape, based upon pictures of birds.
During World War II, Lamarr teamed up with composer George Antheil to develop a communication system that was able to guide torpedoes. Their invention was patented in 1942 and used something called frequency hopping, which prevented enemies from intercepting and jamming the remote guidance. Even though the U.S. Navy did not adopt their design until 1957, this emerging technology was the basis for GPS, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth technology used today.