Throwback Thursday: Hedy Lamarr

If you’ve ever used Wi-Fi, bluetooth, or GPS, you can thank 1940s actress Hedy Lamarr! Image

The “most beautiful woman in the world” came up with the idea of “frequency-hopping” as a means of controlling torpedoes via radio in 1940 after working with avant-garde composer and inventor George Antheil. The team’s discoveries later became so vital to national safety that the government kept the details of their findings top secret.

For many years, Hedy Lamarr wasn’t recognized for her role in revolutionizing wireless communication, but in the early 90’s when cell phone technology was just taking off, a communications technologist came across her patent and convinced a communications company to give her an award. When contacted about the award she was to receive, she responded, “Well, it’s about time.”

Today, FHSS (frequency-hopping spread-spectrum) lets you make a phone call without worrying about your conversation overlapping with someone else’s, even if lots of other calls are happening around you. GPS systems, Bluetooth connections, and even baby monitors rely on FHSS to transmit information between two devices without interference. Without Hedy Lamarr, wireless communications probably wouldn’t be as quick and efficient as they are today!

(Photo via GizmodoNPR also featured this article about Hedy Lamarr and her scientific legacy. Both are great if you want to read more about this amazing woman!)