Digital Media Concepts/Hedy Lamarr

Hedy Lamarr who was originally known as Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler was born November 9th, 1914 in Vienna, Austria.[1] Hedy Lamarr was an Austrian-American actress and inventor who pioneered the technology that would one day form the basis for today’s WiFi, GPS, and Bluetooth communication systems.[2] She was a natural beauty who had been seen widely on the big screen in films during Hollywood's golden age. Some of her most notorious films being, White Cargo, Samson and Delilah, Algiers, and Ecstacy.[3] However, because of her fame in the entertainment industry, society often ignored her brilliant mind and inventive genius.

Hedy Lamarr in 1941.

Early Life edit

Hedy Lamarr was born Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler on November 9th, 1914 in Vienna, Austria. She was born into a Jewish family and was the only child to Gertrud and Emil Kiesler. As an only child, she received a great deal of attention from her father, who had inspired her to look at the world with open eyes. Her father often took her on long walks where he would share with her his knowledge on the inner-workings of different machines, such as street cars or the printing press.[4] These conversations guided Hedy's interest in machine technology, and by the age of 5 she could be found taking apart and reassembling her music box in order to understand how the machine operated. Meanwhile, her mother was a concert pianist and introduced her to the arts, while enrolling her in ballet and piano lessons from a young age.[2]

Hedy Lamarr in 1944.

Career edit

Hedy was seen as a natural beauty, and because of that her brilliant brain was ignored and instead her beauty took center stage when she was discovered at age 16, by director Max Reinhardt.[5] She studied acting in Berlin with Reinhardt and was featured in her first small film role in 1930, in a German film Money on the Street. However, it wasn't until 1932 that Lamarr gained name recognition as an actress for her role the controversial film, Ecstasy. It was 1937 when Lamarr fled to London, and while in London was introduced to Louis B. Mayer of the famed MGM Studios, who was scouting for talent in Europe. She initially turned down his offer (of $125 a week), but later had managed to impress him enough and was able to secure a contract for $500 a week and alongside that, her ticket to Hollywood in 1938.[4] While in Hollywood, Mayer introduced Lamarr as the "world's most beautiful woman", and was able to secure her the role as the lead on Walter Wanger's film Algiers (1938). This film became a "national sensation" and Lamarr was seen as the unknown but well-publicized Austrian actress, who had left the audiences in awe of her beauty. In future Hollywood films, Lamarr was inevitably typecast as the archetypal glamorous seductress of exotic origin. Throughout her acting career she continued on to star in a total of 31 films, including some of the most popular films in the golden age of Hollywood.[6]

Inventor edit

Hedy Lamarr and George Antheil's patent.
Their invention was granted a patent under US Patent 2,292,387.

Despite Lamarr's lack of formal training and reliance on self-teaching, she had always had the mind of an inventor. All throughout her acting career, Lamarr made the time to work on her inventions, stating that “Improving things comes naturally to me”.[4] Fritz Mandl who Lamarr married in 1933, had introduced her to his friends and scandalous business partners. Although their marriage was short-lived, Lamarr fled to London in 1937 with the knowledge she gained from dinner-table discussions about wartime weaponry. She secured her ticket to Hollywood a year later, and while in Hollywood was introduced to businessman and pilot Howard Hughes, who had captivated her interest with his desire for innovation. Her scientific mind had been bottled-up by Hollywood, but Hughes helped Lamarr rekindle her inventive spirit.[1] Hughes had taken Lamarr to his airplane factories and shown her how the planes were built, he wanted to create faster planes that could be sold to the US military, this inspired Lamarr's idea for innovation. Lamarr was convinced that she could find a way to make them faster, so she bought a book of fish and a book of birds and looked at the fastest of each kind. This sparked her idea to combine the fins of the fastest fish and the wings of the fastest bird to sketch a new wing design for Hughes' planes, upon showing him the design he said to Lamarr, "You're a genius". As the gears in her inventive mind continued to turn, Lamarr was undeniably a genius.[4] As the United States prepared to enter World War II in 1940, Lamarr met George Antheil, who would later become her partner in creating her most important invention. Antheil, a writer, film composer, and experimental music composer, shared Lamarr's creative spirit. They discussed a variety of innovative ideas, but one of their main concerns was the upcoming war. Lamarr had gained knowledge of munitions and various weaponry after her marriage to Mandl, which would later prove useful. During World War II, Lamarr discovered that enemy forces could easily jam radio-controlled torpedoes, causing them to deviate from their intended course. As a result, she devised a frequency-hopping signal that could not be tracked or jammed. Lamarr contacted Antheil, and the two collaborated on an incredible new communication system for guiding torpedoes to their intended targets in battle.[7] The system used radio waves to "frequency hopping", with both the transmitter and receiver hopping to new frequencies at the same time. As a result, the radio waves were not intercepted, allowing the torpedo to find its intended target. With Hedy's idea and Antheil's musical expertise, a prototype was created that was controlled by a piano player mechanism and could switch between one of 88 different frequencies (a piano has 88 keys). Following its creation, the two sought a patent for the invention as well as military support. Despite receiving US Patent No. 2,292,387 in August 1942, the Navy decided against implementing the new system because it was technologically difficult to implement, and the US Navy at the time was not open to considering inventions from outside the military. A modernized version of their design first appeared on Navy ships in 1962.[8]

Personal Life edit

Lamarr had lived a glamorous lifestyle, although thing's were not always as great as it had seemed. Lamarr's marriage with Fritz Mandl, an Austrian mutations dealer 1933, had left Lamarr feeling like a prisoner. She had once stated that “I knew very soon that I could never be an actress while I was his wife … He was the absolute monarch in his marriage … I was like a doll. I was like a thing, some object of art which had to be guarded—and imprisoned—having no mind, no life of its own”.[8] This marriage was short-lived, and she managed to get away one evening by drugging a guard and fleeing unnoticed. Following her time in London, Lamarr secured her ticket to Hollywood and by 1939 had remarried to Gene Markey, who was a producer/screenwriter. The two had adopted a child, James Lamarr Markey, but later divorced in 1943. Following her marriage with Markey, she then married John Loder in 1943. Lamarr and Loder went on to have two children together Denise (born 1945) and Anthony (born 1947) during their marriage.[3] Lamarr went on to marry a total of six times, but following her sixth and final divorce in 1965, Lamarr remained unmarried for the last 35 years of her life. Lamarr became increasingly secluded as she grew older, obsessed with plastic surgery and pressuring her doctors to develop new techniques in the field. Lamarr rarely saw her children or friends, preferring instead to spend hours on the phone with them every day. Lamarr died of heart disease on January 19, 2000, in Casselberry, Florida, at the age of 85. In accordance with her wishes, her son Anthony Loder scattered her ashes in the Vienna Woods in Austria.[3]

Legacy edit

Memorial in honor of Hedy Lamarr, located at Vienna's Central Cemetery.

The frequency-hopping system developed by Lamarr and Antheil had far-reaching implications beyond military communications. Although, because the wide-ranging impact of Lamarr's communications invention was not realized until decades later, she was not immediately recognized for it.[9] Frequency hopping pioneered by Lamarr during WWII paved the way for Wi-Fi, cellular technology, and modern satellite systems. This technology is now considered as a significant advancement in wireless communications. The concept is now used as the foundation for many military communications schemes that use hopping to avoid jamming. It has been said that without Lamarr's bravery and bias-breaking innovation, modern communications technology would not have been the same.[10]

Awards and Nominations edit

In 1960, Hedy Lamarr received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In a poll conducted by Philadelphia Record film critic in 1939, Lamarr was named the "most promising new actress" of 1938.[3] The Electronic Frontier Foundation presented Lamarr and Antheil with the Pioneer Award in 1997. Lamarr was the first woman to receive the Bulbie Gnass Spirit of Achievement Award, also known as the "Oscars of inventing," from the Invention Convention. The Austrian Association of Patent Holders and Inventors awarded Lamarr the Viktor Kaplan Medal the following year.[4] The IQOQI built a quantum telescope on the roof of the University of Vienna in 2013 and named it after her in 2014. Lamarr was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in the same year for his frequency-hopping spread spectrum technology. Later that year, Anthony Loder, Lamarr's son, requested that the rest of his mother's ashes be buried in an honorary grave in Vienna. Her urn was buried in the Vienna Central Cemetery on November 7 with a memorial in her honor.[3]

References edit

  1. Biography. “Hedy Lamarr.” Biography, 19 Apr. 2021,
  2. Camhi, Leslie. “Hedy Lamarr’s Forgotten, Frustrated Career as a Wartime Inventor.” The New Yorker, 3 Dec. 2017,
  3. Cheslak, Colleen. “Hedy Lamarr.” Hedy Lamarr, National Women's History Museum, 30 Aug. 2018,
  4. CMG Worldwide. “Biography – Hedy Lamarr.” Hedylamarr.Com, Accessed 10 Mar. 2022.
  5. Field, Shivaune. “Hedy Lamarr: The Incredible Mind Behind Secure WiFi, GPS And Bluetooth.” Forbes, 10 Dec. 2021,
  6. “Hedy Lamarr: Movie Star and Mother of WiFi?” BCS, 10 Mar. 2022,
  7. “Hedy Lamarr.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 10 Mar. 2022,
  8. Meares, Hadley Hall. “The Beautiful Brilliance of Hedy Lamarr.” Vanity Fair, 7 Dec. 2021,
  9. Miller, Hannah. “How Hedy Lamarr and Her Inventions Changed the World.” Leaders.Com, 24 Feb. 2022,
  10. The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. “Hedy Lamarr | Biography, Movies, and Facts.” Encyclopedia Britannica, 15 Jan. 2022,
  1. 1.0 1.1 Editors, Biography com. "Hedy Lamarr". Biography. Retrieved 2022-03-10. {{cite web}}: |last= has generic name (help)
  2. 2.0 2.1
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 "Hedy Lamarr". Wikipedia. 2022-03-10. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4
  5. "Biography – Hedy Lamarr". Retrieved 2022-03-10.
  6. "Hedy Lamarr | Biography, Movies, & Facts | Britannica". Retrieved 2022-03-10.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Nast, Condé (2017-12-03). "Hedy Lamarr's Forgotten, Frustrated Career as a Wartime Inventor". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2022-03-10.
  9. "How Hedy Lamarr and Her Inventions Changed the World". 2021-10-19. Retrieved 2022-03-10.
  10. Field, Shivaune. "Hedy Lamarr: The Incredible Mind Behind Secure WiFi, GPS And Bluetooth". Forbes. Retrieved 2022-03-10.