Remembering Hedy Lamarr, the Hollywood Star Who Paved the Way for Wi-Fi
Apple| | By Jason Owen
Hedy Lamarr was one of the most popular Hollywood actresses of “MGM’s Golden Age” in 1940s Hollywood. Her beauty captivated movie audiences, but when the cameras weren’t rolling, Lamarr was busy creating a patent that would help pave the way for one of the most widely used inventions of the modern world: wireless communication.
Unfortunately, very few people know of this brilliant woman’s contribution to the world, but some are hoping that will soon change.
In June 1941, Lamarr, along with composer George Antheil, submitted a patent to the U.S. Inventor’s Council in Washington D.C., for a secret communications system called “frequency hopping.”
“With the ongoing World War, Lamarr was inspired to contribute to the war effort by designing a jam-proof radio guidance system for torpedoes. With the help of composer George Antheil, they drafted designs for a new frequency-hopping spread-spectrum technology that they later patented.”
The technology was buried in the turmoil of the war and would not be utilized by the U.S. Navy until 20 years later in the Cuban Missile Crisis. Through subsequent years, the technology would continue to evolve and frequency hopping would become the precursor for what we know as wireless phones, Bluetooth, GPS, and Wi-Fi.
Fund Dreamer, a global crowdfunding platform focused on social good, women, and diversity, noted in a press release that frequency hopping is also used in the U.S. Air Force’s billion dollar Milstar satellite system.
For such an important advancement in communication, Lamarr is still relatively unknown for her contributions.
But a new movement is hoping to finally give credit where credit is due.
To honor the 75th Anniversary of Lamarr’s achievement, Fund Dreamer and Reframed Pictures are teaming up to crowdfund and pay for a gravesite memorial for Lamarr, “which will be a physical reminder of Lamarr’s contribution to technology for generations to come,” Fund Dreamer shared.
Hedy Lamarr died in 2000 receiving no compensation and very little praise for her groundbreaking work. To honor her achievement, Susan Sarandon and Reframed Pictures are producing a documentary on Lamarr’s remarkable life and joining forces with Fund Dreamer to crowdfund and pay for the memorial.
“This is the story of a Hollywood actress, defined by her appearance, who was secretly a brilliant inventor and helped change the course of history,” said Sarandon. “Until recently, Hedy Lamarr has laid in an unmarked grave in the Vienna Central Cemetery.”
The memorial will feature 88 stainless steel rods to represent the 88 frequencies in Lamarr’s “frequency hopping” patent. The 88 rods and teardrop balls will create a fascinating optical illusion of Lamarr’s face for anyone to see when visiting the memorial.
Along with the crowdfunding campaign, a social media challenge has been kicked off with a #WeAreHedy hashtag asking women to post a black and white selfie with a description of their contributions in tech.
“Many women in tech know Hedy Lamarr’s story. Like Hedy, all of us are both beauty and brains. To honor Hedy’s work, and our own, we are launching the #WeAreHedy challenge,” said Yulia Laricheva, co-founder of Fund Dreamer.
To learn more or contribute to the campaign, visit Fund Dreamer here.