Silver screen actress helped invent wireless tech – bio

28 Nov 2011

Actress - and inventor - Hedy Lamarr

The woman once considered “the most beautiful woman in the world,” silver screen actress Hedy Lamarr, is behind the invention of wireless technology, a new biography purports.

In the book Hedy’s Folly: The Life and Breakthrough Inventions of Hedy Lamarr, the Most Beautiful Woman in the World, author Richard Rhodes explains how Lamarr was actually a prolific inventor.

Lamarr provided the U.S. Navy with the blueprints for the wireless technology behind GPS and mobile phone networks, according to the biography.

The actress grew bored with the Hollywood social scene, Rhodes told NPR, and she set up a drafting table in her home and began to invent things.

Lamarr worked with a co-inventor, George Antheil, and when German submarines began to attack civilian passenger cruise liners, the duo came up with “spread-spectrum radio” to remotely control torpedoes:

The U.S. Navy wasn’t overly enthused about the idea at the time. Lamarr and Antheil, however, received a patent for spread-spectrum radio in 1942.

It wasn’t until after the war, Rhodes said, that the U.S. Navy revisited the idea, when it took off.

Today, features of Lamarr’s original invention are found in most wireless devices.