Today marks the 101st birthday of
Hedy Lamarr, a scientific legend, a classic Hollywood actress, and an all-around babe.
She designed a communications system that would help the Allies win WWII and eventually form the basis for modern WiFi.
To celebrate her achievements, Google dedicated today’s Doodle to the Austrian-born inventor:
Lamarr first gained international attention when she starred in “Ecstasy,” a risque 1933 Czech film that depicted nude bathing and a sex scene. Though still a teenager at the time, she was the first actress to film an orgasm in a non-pornographic film. Cemented as the quintessential sexpot of the time, she played seductresses in a number of other films from the 1930s to 1950s.
Off-screen, she invented a wireless system for WWII torpedoes with composer George Antheil. In a process called “frequency hopping,” their device hid radio communication from war enemies. It used a piano roll, which is the paper inside a piano that controlls the keys’ movement, to make radio signals rapidly jump between 88 different frequencies — making them difficult intercept.
As Smithsonian magazine reports, Lamarr and Antheil were awarded a patent for their design in 1942, but donated it to the US Navy as a patriotic gesture.
The Navy didn’t take the piano-inspired system too seriously, so Lamarr agreed to help sell a unique type of war bond. Under the arrangement, she would kiss anyone who bought $US25,000 worth of bonds. She sold $US7 million worth in one night.
Lamarr and Antheil’s system would eventually form the basis for modern cell phones, satellite communication, WiFi, GPS, and Bluetooth. For these discoveries, they were inducted into the National Inventors’ Hall of Fame last year.
Susan Sarandon will also play Lamarr in an upcoming documentary, tentatively called “Hedy: The Untold Story of Actress and Inventor Hedy Lamarr.”
“This is the story of a Hollywood actress, defined by her appearance, who is secretly a brilliant inventor and changes the course of history,” Sarandon told Variety.
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