When and where was she born?
Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler (Hedy Lamarr) was born on 9 November,1914 in Vienna, Austria. She died of heart disease when she was 85, in 2000 in Florida.
- She ran away from her first husband to Paris, by disguising herself as a maid;
- She performed in over 30 films promoted as ‘the world’s most beautiful woman’ as a leading lady to all of the famous male stars of the time;
- She changed her name to Hedy Lamarr once she reached Hollywood.
- In-between films, she designed and developed a ski resort and invented several things including a traffic light and a capsule to make sparkling water (which didn’t taste very good!);
- She married 6 times and had 3 children;
- In her later years she had a lot of plastic surgery done on her face to keep her beauty but it wasn’t very successful, so she became a recluse and rarely left the house, only communicating on the phone.
What’s important about her scientific work?
During World War II, Hedy learned that torpedoes, which were new at the time and were controlled by radio signals, could be easily jammed and sent off course. She wanted to create a radio signal that could not be tracked or jammed and asked her friend, pianist George Antheil, to help her make it. They created an early version of a technology called frequency-hopping spread spectrum – an early version of Bluetooth and WiFi.
What do we know about her childhood?
She was always fascinated by theatre and film & acting. When she was 12, she won a beauty contest in Vienna. She spent a lot of time with her father, who encouraged her love of inventing. Together they went on lots of walks, with him explaining how various technologies, worked.
What struggles did she face?
- Her first husband sold weapons to the Italian Fascists and Nazis. He made her convert to Catholicism from Judaism and was very controlling, so she was forced to run away and moved to the USA;
- People refused to believe that she was as intelligent as she was beautiful and so her ideas and inventions weren’t taken seriously. When she presented her radio signal invention, she was told to use her beauty to sell war bonds, not her brains to help win the war. Her invention stayed on a shelf and was only used once the patent which credited her ownership, expired.
What did she achieve?
- She is the founder of frequency-hopping used for Bluetooth, WiFi, but rarely credited for it.
- She was honoured with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960;
- In 1997 she was the first woman to receive an award known as the “Oscars of inventing”, the Invention Convention’s BULBIE Gnass Spirit of achievement award;
- In 2014, Hedy and George were inducted into the National Inventor Hall of Fame.