Tuesday, August 10, 2010

More Than Just A Pretty Face

Actress Hedy Lamarr
(November 9, 1913 – January 19, 2000)

More than just a pretty face, actress Hedy Lamarr's true claims to fame have nothing to do with Hollywood. Without her, those few survivors left might this year be marking the 46th anniversary of World War III and there might never have been an iPhone 3GS for you to lust for.

Born Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler, Ms. Lamarr, in 1933, married Fredrich Mandl, an arms merchant who was controlling and possessive. Mandl forced her to attend his business meetings, during which the mathematically adept Ms. Lamarr learned a great deal about the munitions industry.

But when her husband began consorting with the Nazi high command and holding grand parties for Adolph Hitler and Benito Mussolini, Ms. Lamarr sought escape.

According to some accounts, during a Nazi celebration, she drugged her husband, disguised herself as a maid and fled the country. She made her way to Hollywood by way of London and Paris.

During World War II, when her film career was in high gear, Ms. Lamarr had a conversation with composer George Anthiel that helped change the course of homeland security and human communication.

Anthiel, a Hollywood neighbor of Ms. Lamarr, was fascinated with the automated mechanism of player pianos that caused them to play the right notes at precisely the right times. He and Ms. Lamarr, who had learned quite a lot about torpedoes from her munitions-merchant husband, started trading ideas.

The two collaborated to develop a guidance protocol for torpedoes that couldn't be jammed by enemies of the Allied forces. The result was a patent for a process by which radio transmissions hop rapidly across 88 different frequencies like notes on a keyboard.

The US Navy thought it was a good idea but ahead of its time.
They were right. It was 1962 before the US military used the technology to aid in the blockade of Soviet ships carrying nuclear weapons components during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

And it was 1997 before the very same concept became an integral part of the spread spectrum technology that makes your cellphone and Wi-Fi network possible today.

Hedy Lamarr was once considered to be the most beautiful woman in the world but we salute her today as a Real Woman of the Apocalypse.

You can read more about this fascinating and intelligent woman on the website from which I collected the majority of this text. There are other links on the site as well.

There is much out there at Wiki and other websites, too, if you are interested. This week marks the anniversary of her patent: U.S. Patent Number 2292387 granted on August 11, 1942.



Brian Miller said...

real woman of the apocalypse...smiles. nice post and she was more than just a pretty face...

Baino said...

Wow I had no idea, I just thought she was an actress. Fascinating.

Jessie said...

this is very interesting. thank you for enlighting us!


The Silver Fox said...

Being a huge fan of Hedy's, I knew this stuff, but it's nice to see her receive recognition for it whenever it appears!

And as far as "Hedy Lamarr was once considered to be the most beautiful woman in the world but we salute her today as a Real Woman of the Apocalypse," you're absolutely right of course, but I like to think of her in both respects. I miss her...

Megan said...

Holy crap! Who knew?!?

Mmm said...

What an incredible woman. I didn't know anything about here. Wow. Thank you for bringing her to our attention.

willow said...

She was an amazing woman. I've always thought she was one of the real Hollywood beauties.