In our ongoing series #WomenThatDid ENTITY profiles inspirational and famous women in history whose impact on our world can still be felt today. If you have a suggestion for a historical powerhouse you would like to see featured tweet us with the hashtag #WomenThatDid.
Name: Hedy Lamarr
Lifetime: November 9, 1914 – January 19, 2000
What She’s Known For: If you believe the old myth that beauty and brains can’t come in the same package, think again. Besides being known as the most beautiful woman in the world, actress Hedy Lamarr also invented the basis for WiFi, Bluetooth and GPS.
Why We Love Her: When might initially hear about Lamarr, a Jewish immigrant from Vienna, because of her beauty and controversial nude scenes in movies. However, it’s impossible to ignore her technological expertise. Tired of her sex-symbol status, Lamarr decided to help the war effort in a unique way: by building inventions. Her most successful and helpful invention was a “frequency hopping spread-spectrum” system that protected radio communications from enemy spies.
The system would switch frequencies in a predetermined pattern. Since both the sender and receiver would know when and in what order to switch, members of the Allies could stay in contact while the enemy couldn’t follow the signal. Using this system for torpedoes’ radio frequencies almost meant that the signals would not be intercepted.
Lamarr’s system eventually formed the basis for modern wireless communications technology in cordless phones, cell phones, satellite communications and more. However, she wasn’t recognized for her efforts until the 1990s when one of the pioneers of wireless communications found her patent and contacted her by phone. When told that she was receiving an award, Lamarr, in her early 80s at the time, said, “Well, it’s about time.”
Fun Fact: Lamarr’s other projects included an improved stoplight and a tablet that, when dissolved in water, created a soda similar to Coca-Cola.
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