Hedy was a Viennese actress and inventor who was very late acknowledged for her engineering work developing what is now known as Frequency Hopping Spread Spectrum (FHSS) created as a Secret Communication System during the Second World War hand by hand with George Antheil.
Her professional life began when she decided to study Engineering at university. She had always been very curious and intelligent, a very remarkable student. However, she decided to leave her studies unfinished to start a career in acting, as she had always wanted to be an actress. The film that made her famous was Ecstasy , in which there was a very sexual and therefore, controversial scene of her making love to a man, becoming also the first woman to be shown having an orgasm on film. Afterwards, a very rich man called Fritz Mandl became interested in her and decided to marry her. Even though she didn’t want to, she did, because her family pressured her as they thought no one would ever want to be with her after appearing in such conditions on screen. Fritz Mandl was a tycoon in the arms industry, so she became very familiar with weapons commerce and trading. During this marriage, she decided to finish her degree in engineering, but after that, she decided to get away from him, as she felt trapped by all the vigilance he had put around her, as a result of his constant jealousy.
On her way to London, she met Louis B. Mayer, a film producer who offered her a job as an actress, which she happily accepted. That was when she chose the name by which she is known, Hedy Lamarr, as her previous and original one, Hedwig Eva María Kiesler, was related to the film Ectsasy and it was not good for her reputation.
For all the years she was an actress, she also spent her free time working on personal engineering projects to help in the war. On some occasions, her help was rejected, but she was such an obstinate and stubborn lady, she never gave up on searching for new ways to be useful. Finally, she decided to work on the weakest area of war: communications. She realized they were very easy to interfere with, so she thought about making them better and more complex so the enemies would not be able to understand them. She started working on it when she met the great composer George Antheil. She noticed he was capable of making many instruments play synchronized mechanically with excellent precision, which was exactly what Hedy was looking for. They worked together for several months until they finished what is known as the “Secret Communication System”, a project they patented and hoped would be used to improve communications during the war. Basically, this system would divide messages and send them through different frequencies, so if enemies interfered with them, they would just get one piece of the whole message. Also, with this system, there was a code to decipher, so even if the messages were interfered with by the enemies, they would not know how to decode them. The name of this technique was they would not know how to decode them. The name of this technique was they would not know how to decode them. The name of this technique wasFrequency Hopping Spread Spectrum . It was a brilliant idea. Nevertheless, during the war, they decided not to use this new system as it looked too complex but at the same time fragile. It was many years later when the transistor was invented when an American company decided to develop Lamarr and Antheil’s system so they could later use it for military purposes. It was first used in 1962 in Cuba.
What is important at present times is that her invention became the basis of what nowadays is known as Bluetooth or even Wifi. Unfortunately, she was not acknowledged for this great invention until she was very old.