With two degrees in history, I enjoy researching and writing about historical events that the history books tend to gloss over.
Hedy Lamarr- Thinker
Born in Austria as Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler, Hedy Lamarr, known as the “World’s, most beautiful woman”, perhaps had the worlds most beautiful mind. As a child, she would take long walks with her father, who encouraged her to have an open and curious mind. They often discussed the inner workings of machines such as street cars or the printing press. As a result, Hedy could often be found disassembling and reassembling her music box to better understand how it worked. Hedy’s mother, a concert pianist, introduced her to the arts. Despite Hedy’s brilliance, her mind was completely ignored, and her beauty was put first when she was discovered by director Max Reinhardt.
In her early career, she acted in several Austrian, German, and Czech films, most notably a film titled Ecstasy (1933), in which she appeared nude. She married Fritz Mandl, an Austrian ammunition maker, the same year as the movie’s release but soon found him to be a terrible match. Hedy is quoted as remarking “I was like a thing, some object of art which had to be guarded—and imprisoned—having no mind, no life of its own.” During her marriage, she was often hostess of lavish dinner parties, with some guest affiliated with the Nazi party. As only her beauty was noticed, she quietly learned valuable knowledge of war time weapons during dinner conversations. She later disguised herself as a maid in order to flee from her controlling husband in 1937 and eventually made her way to Hollywood, USA. Hedy began acting in the late 1930’s for MGM studio where she found great success as a leading lady.
While in Holly wood, she met Howard Hughes, a man with a desire for innovation. He encouraged Hedy to use her intelligence and curiosity that had been fostered by her father. He gifted her a science equipment set to use during breaks on set to complement her research at home. Through Hughes, she met scientists and aeronautical engineers. As the world was locked in the second great war, Hughes wanted to make faster planes to sell to the military. Hedy created a new wing design which allowed him to do just that! She said, “Improving things comes naturally to me.”
However, her most significant invention was soon to come. With the US set to enter the war, Hedy took the knowledge she had learned during dinner parties in her earlier marriage and began to put it to use. Teeming up with George Antheil, composer, and inventor, they began to experiment with inventions to combat the axis powers. With Hedy’s understanding of Nazi communications and weapons, they came up with a new communication system to guide torpedoes to their targets. It was a method called frequency hopping, that hopped between radio waves with both the transmitter and receiver hopping to new frequencies together. This prevented the inception of radio waves. The team filed a patent which was granted in 1942. However, the Navy declined to utilize this new system and Lamarr allowed the patent to expire.
Hedy became and American citizen in 1953 and continued to act until 1958. It wasn’t until much later that her scientific achievements would be noticed. In 1997 she and Antheil won the Pioneer Award from the Electronic Frontier Foundation for their frequency hopping invention. Further, Hedy became the first woman to win the Invention Convention’s Bulbie Gnass Spirit of Achievement Award. She was posthumously inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2014. So, what happened to her frequency hopping invention? It birthed a few modern things you might recognize, such as, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and GPS.
Barton, Ruth. Hedy Lamarr: The Most Beautiful Woman in Film. Lexington, Kentucky: University Press of Kentucky, 2010. Accessed February 2, 2021. doi:10.2307/j.ctt2jcvm4.
Cheslak, Colleen. "Hedy Lamarr." Hedy Lamarr. August 30, 2018. https://www.womenshistory.org/students-and-educators/biographies/hedy-lamarr.
“Hedy Lamarr Biography.” Biography.com. April 2, 2014.
MG Singh emge from Singapore on February 09, 2021:
You have written an amazing article about a many-faceted actress. She was a real beauty.
Millicent Okello from Nairobi, Kenya on February 09, 2021:
They say the beautiful pnes are not yet born. I have read this article and thanks to you i now know that there was once a beautiful woman by the name heddy lamarr.
Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on February 09, 2021:
I must agree with Heidi that she was the most amazing woman ever. She was gorgeous and so smart. This is such an interesting artcle, Brandy.
Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on February 09, 2021:
I think she was one of the most amazing women ever! Thanks for celebrating her beauty and genius.