Physics Research: Hedy Lamarr

To honor the greatest accomplishments by women in STEM, we, the students in physics class, did research on many talented ladies around the world in STEM field.  

Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler

Actress, Inventor

BORN: 9th November, 1914

DIED: 19th January, 2000

Citizenship: Austria, United States of America (from 1953)

Stage name: Hedy Lamarr

Co-founder of the invention of Spread Spectrum Technology

Known during her time as the “Most Beautiful Girl in the World,” Hedy Lamarr emerged in the 1940s with her talented skills in film production. Besides her beautiful face, she also made an invention of new technology. The newly discovered invention was called “Spread Spectrum Technology,” also known for the Silver Screen Exploits. In contemporary times, this invention has assumed a major role in developing and manufacturing technology in the field of wireless communication.

Hedy Lamarr was born Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler, on the 9th of November, 1914 in Vienna, Austria-Hungary. She was of Jewish descent and immigrated from Austria to the United States of America in 1937 to pursue a career in the filming industries. At the time of her immigration, Lamarr was a young, bright girl who was already showing her interest in and dream of becoming an actress.

Career Life Time

Through hard work and her strong commitment to chase her vivid dream, at age 17, Lamarr became a young, talented actress and first appeared in the film “Geld auf der straße” (Money On The Road). At that time, her career in the film industries gave her a strong, significant presence in the Czechoslovakian and German film industries. In addition, in 1933, she was in the German film “Ecstasy,” which brought her to the attention of Hollywood producers. Later on, Lamarr was offered a contract and became a star of the media company MGM, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Before becoming a shining, talented star, Lamarr experienced a lot of rough life moments. In 1933, she married a man, Friedrich Mandl, a wealthy Austrian. He was a controlling man who prevented her from pursuing her dream and acting career. Lamarr decided to escape from her husband for Paris, France. It was here in Paris that she started to blossom in her career and continued her acting in many entertainment venues until reaching Hollywood.

By the 1940s, she had acted in 18 Hollywood movies. At that time, many people did not appreciate and admire her talented acting skills; they mostly emphasized her beauty. As Lamarr got older, her acting career started to wither, and by the 1950s, her presence in the film industry became extremely limited. In spite of her career’s eventual decline, Lamarr contributed some timeless quotes to inspire women and others, such as the following:

  1. “Any girl can be glamorous. All you have to do is stand still and look stupid.”
  2. “A good painting to me has always been like a friend. It keeps me company, comforts and inspires.”
  3. “Hope and curiosity about the future seemed better than guarantees. The unknown was always so attractive to me…and still is.”

Spread Spectrum Technology

Besides her career in acting and filming, Hedy Lamarr was also a talented inventor. She was the first female inventor to discover Spread Spectrum Technology. It all started in the early 1940s when Lamarr and her partner, George Antheil, tried to develop the “Secret Communications System.” It is a patented device that manipulates radio frequencies at irregular intervals during reception or transmission. This means that this invention could form an unbreakable code that could effectively stop the transmission of information and messages by enemy spies.

Lamarr and Antheil invented this technology for a couple of reasons. First of all, she had personal reasons against the war, and she tried to work relentlessly to build this new invention for the Allies to win the war against the Nazis during World War II. Second of all, when she first married Mandl, he was actually selling munitions to Hitler. And finally, Lamarr was been severely degraded by her husband, who had insisted she did not have the abilities or capability to succeed in his field. In addition to inspiring her inventions, these were the reasons that had caused Lamarr to leave her husband and pursue her career in the first place.

Subsequently, Lamarr and Antheil came together to create and develop this invention. They were both authorized to develop their invention by the American government in 1941, but it did not attract the attention of greater audiences until ten years later. However, Spread Spectrum Technology was eventually implemented on naval ships during the Cuban Missile Crisis; and in fact, it continued to emerge in numerous military applications thereafter. In particular, this technology improved communication based on radio frequencies by changing at irregular periods that were synchronized (operated at same time and rate) between the transmitter and receiver. This technology could maintain the security of the messages that were being sent and prevented any hackers from transmitting them.

Spread Spectrum Technology becomes the main factor in the development of present and future wireless communication systems, including cellular phones, fax machines, and other wireless operations. Simultaneously, it is currently utilized in wireless “LAN,” Local Area Network, which is used in barcode scanners, palmtop computers, radio modern devices for warehousing, digital dispatch, digital cellular phone communication, computer data, city, state, or country networks for passing taxes, and email or multi-media data. This technology was also the main contributor to the invention of WiFi and the internet, which are really beneficial to today’s world population.

Before/After Death

In 1997, Lamarr and her partner received and were honored by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) Pioneer Award. Later on, she became the first female recipient of the BUBBLE Gnass Spirit of Achievement Award. Hedy Lamarr died in the year 2000. Besides all of her inventing accomplishments, she was also the face for millions of women. But Lamarr was not just a pretty face – she helped shatter stereotypes of what a woman could be and earned her place among the 20th century’s most important women inventors.

Works Cited

America’s Inventor[Tm] Online: Profile, inventionconvention.com/americasinventor/dec97issue/section2.html.

“Biography.” IMDb, IMDb.com, www.imdb.com/name/nm0001443/bio.

“Hedy Lamarr.” Hedy Lamarr – Engineering and Technology History Wiki, ethw.org/Hedy_Lamarr.

“Home.” Famous Scientists, www.famousscientists.org/hedy-lamarr/.

“Lemelson-MIT Program.” Hedy Lamarr | Lemelson-MIT Program, lemelson.mit.edu/resources/hedy-lamarr.

“Who Is Hedy Lamarr? Everything You Need to Know.” Childhood, Life Achievements & Timeline, www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/hedy-lamarr-6139.php.

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