Some said Hedy Lamarr was the most beautiful woman in the world. Some said she had the most beautiful face they had ever seen. Some just stopped talking mid-sentence, in awe, when she walked into a room.
Born in Vienna, Austria, in 1914, Hedy was an only child of two loving and devoted parents. She spent time with her mother learning about the arts, and with her father, they explored the city, often stopping to learn about the workings of different machines they came across. Her father spent much time teaching her, developing in her a love and understanding for technology. By five years old, Hedy was taking apart and reassembling gadgets like music boxes at home.
But it was acting that captured her heart. Enamored with the art, dedicating herself to the craft, she began to play roles in films. And by her late teens, Hedy was a star.
Soon she married. Her husband, infatuated with the star, treated her less like a wife and more as a prize. “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,” she said. Unhappy in her marriage, one night, she dressed as a maid and escaped abroad, where she filed for divorce.
Life took her to the U.S., where just as in Europe, she became a famous actress. She wowed audiences with beauty and charm and sophistication. Yet, Hedy, intelligent and curious, wanted to do more.
With World War II taking place and understanding the dangers of life under a Nazi regime from her experiences living in Europe, she got involved in the war effort. Working together with a fellow inventor, they filed a patent for a radio guidance system that Allied torpedoes could use to defeat the threat of blocking or interfering with wireless communication.
Ultimately the U.S. Navy did not use their innovation. But the principles from the designs are now incorporated into modern Wi-Fi, CDMA and Bluetooth technology. Hedy was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2014.
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“A Snapshot Biography of Hedy Lamarr” sources:
- Cheslak, C. (2018, August 30). Hedy Lamarr. Retrieved from https://www.womenshistory.org/students-and-educators/biographies/hedy-lamarr
- Beautiful: The Life of Hedy Lamarr by Stephen Michael Shearer
- Photo: Hedy Lamarr publicity photo for the film The Heavenly Body, 1944 / Wikimedia Commons