Hedy Lamarr
Inventor and Actress
Hedy Lamarr

Hedy Lamarr (November 9, 1913 – January 19, 2000)
Although actress Hedy Lamarr was called “the most beautiful woman in film,” this meant little to her. “Any girl can be glamorous,” said the star. “All you have to do is stand still and look stupid.”

Instead of standing still, Lamarr busied herself with the creation of a wartime communications system. Her invention laid the groundwork for today’s cellular telephone technology.

Born Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler in Vienna, Austria, Lamarr was a model for Maybelline and co-starred with film legends including Jimmy Stewart, Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy. In the summer of 1940, at the peak of her movie career, Lamarr had a conversation with composer George Anthiel, a neighbor. What began as chitchat became an idea for a radio-controlled torpedo, a useful invention considering World War II was underway.

Lamarr had learned about weapons from her first husband, a military aircraft manufacturer. After fine-tuning their idea, Lamarr and Anthiel patented their “Secret Communication System” in 1942.

The U.S. Navy passed on their invention citing its large size. But in 1957, engineers at the Sylvania Electronic Systems Division studied it and created a similar tool. The Sylvania system was used successfully in a 1962 U.S. naval blockade against Cuba. Unfortunately for Lamarr, her patent had expired three years earlier. However, modern inventors consider her invention to be the foundation of frequency-changing devices, including the one that the U.S. government uses in its Milstar defense communication satellite system. It is also the basis for many of the technologies we use daily, such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

While Lamarr’s life as an inventor was significantly shorter than her time as an actress, this beautiful woman proved that glamour and beauty can definitely be smart and exceptional.