What do Hollywood, World War II, and WiFi have in common?
The answer is an Austrian film actress and inventor named Hedy Lamarr, born in 1914.
In 1941, half the world was at war and the other half was about to enter it. Hedy was well acquainted with Hitler's government practices and harbored a deep resentment towards the Nazis, so she decided to contribute personally to the Allies' war effort.
First, she offered her work and engineering expertise to the newly created National Inventors Council, but her offer was kindly rejected by the authorities, who advised her to use her physique and success as an actress to promote the sale of war bonds. Far from being discouraged, she consulted with her artistic representative and they devised a campaign in which anyone who purchased $25,000 or more in bonds would receive a kiss from the actress. In one night alone, she sold $7 million.
And she continued... The frequency hopping spread spectrum was born after Lamarr realized that the radio signals guiding US Navy torpedoes were very easy to interfere with, causing them to deviate from their initial course. In conversation with composer George Antheil, they realized that frequency could be changed in the same way that notes are changed on a player piano (using a pair of perforated and synchronized drums to switch between 88 frequencies). And so they did. The military did not realize the usefulness of this invention until the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. Lamarr's technology was used to control torpedoes and communication, and today, it is still in use for mobile networks, Bluetooth devices, and WiFi.
Unfortunately, in her time, she did not receive the recognition she deserved for her contribution to technology. It was not until she was 82 years old that she and George Antheil (who had died in 1959) received the Pioneer Award in 1997, granted by the American organization Electronic Frontier Foundation, for their discoveries and contributions to the high-frequency technology field.
In Austria, Inventor's Day is celebrated on November 9 in her honor.
At Suris Code, we promote innovation and recognition for the contributions of historical figures who have generated immeasurable technological advances that have changed people's lives and organizations.