Hedy Lamarr: Google Doodle is a video spectacular for actress and inventor

9 Nov 2015

Hedy Lamarr image via Hedylamarr.org

Most of the world is getting to see the genius that was Hedy Lamarr with today’s Google Doodle celebrating the actress and her inventions, which included making a significant contribution to this little thing called Wi-Fi.

Born in Austria in 1914, Hedy Lamarr, whose real name was Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler, and who ended up becoming one of the most famous figures in the world, would have celebrated her 101st birthday today.

Her real fame began following her move to the US in 1938 on the eve of WWII, where she quickly found herself in demand from Hollywood producers and within a year she made her debut in the film Algiers alongside Charles Boyer, who reportedly asked for her to be cast after meeting her at a party.

She then spent the next nine years in Hollywood being a part of major Hollywood films at the time, including Samson and Delilah, before making sporadic appearances in other films throughout the 1950s.

But at Siliconrepublic.com we are much more interested in her decision to ditch the movie industry due to boredom with the scene, deciding that she’d rather become an inventor.

Perhaps what best defined her genius, and what she would became best known for in the scientific community, was her contribution to the invention of the frequency-hopping-spread-spectrum (FHSS).

Along with her colleague George Antheil, she worked throughout WWII to help the Allies develop a secret communications method using the frequency-hopping method to make it more difficult to intercept.

This exact same process is still used today in billions of devices, specifically in how Wi-Fi and Bluetooth-enabled devices communicate.

She also dabbled in other inventions that were, frankly, less successful, including an improved method of traffic signalling, as well as a tablet that would create a carbonated drink when placed in water.

On 19 January 2000, Lamarr died at the age of 85, with her ashes being spread across the Vienna Woods close to where she grew up.

Speaking of her Doodle creation, artist Jennifer Hom said: “Sketching storyboards on a yellow notepad helped me figure out how to show Lamarr in very different scenarios – movie star by day, inventor by night – which we then animated and set to the awesome soundtrack created by composer Adam Ever-Hadani.”

Women Invent is Silicon Republic’s campaign to champion the role of women in science, technology, engineering and maths. It has been running since March 2013, and is kindly supported by Intel, Open Eir (formerly Eircom Wholesale), Fidelity Investments, Accenture and CoderDojo.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic