Hedy Lamarr in 1940
Public Domain photo
Hedy Lamarr is best known as an actress, but she had many other talents, too. In fact, she contributed to wireless communication technology that helped win World Wars and has been used in many other applications, including cell phones.
|Hedy in Lady Without a Passport, 1950, public domain photo|
Born in Austria in 1914, Hedy lived in Vienna during the time when Nazi Germany was on the rise. Her original name was Hedwig Kiesler, and she became an actress in the 1920s. She was taken to Berlin for training in theater, then returned to Vienna. She acted both on stage and in films.
In 1933, she married Friedrich Mandl, a wealthy Austrian arms dealer and munitions manufacturer. She was 18, and Mandl was fifteen years older. Hedy later described him as extremely controlling and said she was a prisoner in their luxurious home. Mandl took her to all his business meetings, and it was there that Hedy paid attention and learned about advanced weaponry.
Hedy grew to hate the Nazis. After four years of marriage, she escaped to London. There she met Louis B. Mayer, and he brought her to the United States and gave her a movie contract and a new name (Lamarr).
Clark Gable and Hedy Lamarr in Comrade X, 1940
After she came to the United States, Lamarr forged an illustrious career in Hollywood. Among other credits, she starred with Clark Gable in Boom Town and Comrade X, with Spencer Tracy in I Take This Woman and Tortilla Flat, opposite Bob Hope in My Favorite Spy, and Jimmy Stewart in Ziegfeld Girl and Come Live with Me. She appeared in about thirty films during her career.
She met American composer George Antheil, and with him devised a plan to help the war effort. They developed a communications system that could be used in radio-controlled torpedoes to help defeat the Nazis. This worked by manipulating radio frequencies at irregular intervals. This system could also prevent the enemy from intercepting messages. They received a patent in 1941.
Hedy in 1939 film Lady of the Tropics
Public domain photo
In addition to its usefulness to the armed forces, the technology was a big step forward in digital communications. Cell phones, fax machines, and other modern devices are possible in part because of this system.
In 1997, Lamarr and Anthiel were finally honored with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) Pioneer Award. The same year, Lamarr became the first female recipient of the BULBIE™ Gnass Spirit of Achievement Award, a lifetime accomplishment prize for inventors that is referred to as the Oscar of inventing.
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Susan Page Davis is the award-winning author of more than eighty novels and novellas in the historical, romance, mystery, and suspense genres. She’s always interested in unusual events of the past. A Maine native, she now lives in western Kentucky.
What an interesting post! I never knew much about Hedy Lamar. What a gal! Thank you for sharing!ReplyDelete
Thanks, Melanie. I will say she had a problematic life, but worth remembering.Delete
You always pick up such interesting tidbits of information!!! Thanks!ReplyDelete
Aw, thank you, Connie!Delete
Thanks for an intriguing lesson on Hedy Lamarr. I had heard of her before, but never knew how great she was. Thanks for the giveaway and good luck everyone.ReplyDelete
You're welcome, Debbie. Got you entered.Delete
oops forgot my email address...princessdebbie1_2000(at)yahoo(dot)com Thanks.ReplyDelete
Wow thanks for sharing. cheetahthecat1986ATgmailDOTcomReplyDelete
Thanks, Kim. Waving.Delete
Wow Susan, what an intriguing post about Hedy Larmaar! I always liked her movies but did not know this about her. Thank you for sharing.ReplyDelete
KINGsDaughter5683 (at) gmail (dot) com
Glad you enjoyed it!Delete
Wow! I did not know anything except her roles as an actress. She was something else. You bring history to life. fishingjanATaolDOTcomReplyDelete
Thanks, Jan! Glad you stopped by.Delete
I loved Hedy Lamarr as an actress, but never knew these fascinating facts about her. She was a real beauty with brains. I remember seeing her in so many wonderful movies as a young girl. She was glamorous and sultry. I saw Samson and Delilah and remember it well. I also saw Dishonored Lady and I vaguely remember Ziegfield Girl, but I was only 5 the summer mother took us to the movies in 1941 to see it. Thanks for a very interesting post.ReplyDelete
You're welcome, Martha. Glad it brought good memories.Delete
Wonderful post about Hedy Lamarr and her contributions to communication. Thank you for sharing this historical tidbit about Lamarr. marilynridgway78[at]gmail[dot}comReplyDelete
Glad you enjoyed it, Marilyn!Delete
Thank you so much for this post Susan! Enjoyed learning more about Hedy . As your title said she was more than a pretty face,in fact I had heard she was prouder of her scientific accomplishments than her career as a glamour girl. I think she'd would have been happy to know that when my niece was in high school Hedy's picture and bio was in one of her Science books.ReplyDelete
I read that when she finally got the award, she said, "It's about time!"Delete
It makes me wonder what would have happened if the US government would have recognized how important that communication system was. I had read about this before but didn't remember that it took so long for the value of it to be recognized.ReplyDelete
Yeah! How far ahead would we be?Delete
What a fascinating life she led! Thanks for sharing! shopgirl152nykiki(at)yahoo.comReplyDelete
Your article on Hedy Larmarr was so interesting, Susan! I had never heard of her before. I'll have to check out her films. How sad about her awful marriage to Friedrich Mandl, but a blessing in all she was able to learn that helped influence her desire to help the war effort! She certainly contributed alot! I too wonder how much her invention would have helped with the war if the U.S. government would have utilized it. You sure had me captivated in learning her story! :) Thanks as well for the opportunity of this giveaway!!! ~Alison BossReplyDelete
Thank you everyone for taking part in this discussion! Our winner is Pam Kellogg. Congratulations, Pam! I'll contact you.ReplyDelete