Who is Hedy Lamarr, the woman behind the invention of wifi?

Who is Hedy Lamarr, the woman behind the invention of wifi?
Who is Hedy Lamarr, the woman behind the invention of wifi?

After abandoning her studies very early, Hedy Lamarr began her acting career in Austria before moving to Berlin in 1931 where she took on roles in theater and cinema. The film Ecstasy, by Czechoslovakian director Gustav Machatý, marks a real turning point in his career. The feature film, which shows the first female orgasm scene in cinema history, shocks the public and makes Hedy Lamarr a star.

The one we now nickname “The Ecstasy Girl” in 1933 married the arms dealer Friedrich Mandl, close to Mussolini and Hitler, who tried to make her stop her career. The young woman went into exile for a time in Switzerland where she frequented the European jet set and notably met another Austrian Jewish émigré like her, the director Billy Wilder. In 1938, she fled her husband and Nazi Germany and arrived in Hollywood where she became Hedy Lamarr. Another life begins.

The rest under this advertisement


Nature takes its time…
like this ad!


Nature takes its time…
like this ad!

A visionary inventor

When the actress settled in the United States, she continued to film in numerous films, notably for MGM (Metro Goldwyn Mayer) with whom she signed a 7-year contract. But regardless of where she lives, the cities where she films, the young woman always sets up a workshop to allow her to indulge in her great passion: invention.

Because although Hedy Lamarr did not pursue higher education, she is endowed with extraordinary intelligence. In his book entitled “A life, a work”, the writer and historian Vivianne Perret says that Hedy Lamarr always had “very diverse occupations”, meeting artists as well as scientists, his mind constantly in turmoil. “She invented anything and everything: a broth cube which when it dissolved became a soda, a fluorescent collar for dogs, a system to help disabled people get out of their baths… She was constantly on the lookout of information, to transform it into inventions”, writes Vivianne Perret.

The rest under this advertisement


Nature takes its time…
like this ad!

The birth of spread spectrum by frequency hopping

Hedy Lamarr wants to participate in the war effort and shares with her adopted country her knowledge of weapons, acquired during her first marriage to Fritz Mandl. But the Germans are one step ahead of the Allies and they manage to jam the radio frequencies used to guide the British army’s torpedoes. The inventor then wants to develop a system capable of diverting the frequency of the torpedoes to prevent them from being intercepted. She has the intuition that this would require a “frequency jump”, that is to say, allowing the receivers of the radio-guided torpedoes on submarines to change frequency permanently.

To achieve this, Hedy Lamarr will join forces with the American pianist George Antheil whose famous “Mechanical Ballet” for 16 pianos was based precisely on the synchronization of the instruments and the implementation of note jumps thanks to an encryption system. Inspired by the latter, together they will develop a new jamming system applied to the army (frequency-hopping spread spectrum or spectrum spreading by frequency hopping) using a mechanical piano synchronized with radio frequencies. The duo filed a patent under the name “Secret Communication System” on June 10, 1941.

The rest under this advertisement


Nature takes its time…
like this ad!


Nature takes its time…
like this ad!

Belated recognition for a system we use every day

Hedy Lamarr’s invention interests the Navy. But the latter ended up losing interest in it, not realizing its importance and its multiple potential applications. The US Navy does not take the invention of an actress and a pianist seriously. The two inventors were unaware for a long time that their system would actually be used, in an improved version, during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, without them ever being mentioned.

Spread spectrum by frequency hopping is now present in our mobile phones, Bluetooth, GPS and of course Wi-Fi technology.

It was only in 1997, three years before her death, that the importance of Hedy Lamarr was finally known to the general public. While defense secrecy is lifted on her invention, she retroactively receives the price ofElectronic Frontier Foundation. Hedy Lamarr died anonymously on January 19, 2000, at the age of 85. She was admitted in 2014, posthumously, to the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

-

-

PREV [DIRECT] The National Conference began on May 25, 2024 in Ouagadougou
NEXT Approval of Ethereum ETFs drives prices higher, but uncertainties loom.