Which Hollywood actress pioneered the technology we would later use for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and GPS?

And the answer: Hedy Lamarr.
Photo credit: public domain. 

In 1941, Hedy Lamarr filed the patent for frequency-hopping technology that became a precursor to the Wi-Fi, GPS, and Bluetooth capabilities we use today. At the time, her invention was used as a secure radio guidance system for Allied torpedoes during WWII.    

Not only was Hedy Lamarr one of the great actresses of her day, but the star was also one of the most innovative minds around. Said to be the inspiration for iconic characters such as Cat Woman and Snow White, Lamarr's beauty often overshadowed her impressive intellectual pursuits and successes. Yet, after dazzling audiences on the silver screen, Lamarr would return home to her inventing table, where she would quietly experiment with technology that was still unheard of to most.

During the second World War, Lamarr teamed up with Howard Hughes, a renowned inventor who sought to invent the fastest airplane in the world. According to Lamarr herself:

"I thought the aeroplanes were too slow, so I decided that's not right. They shouldn't be square, the wings. So I bought a book of fish, I bought a book of birds and then used the fastest bird, connected it with the fastest fish, and I drew it together and showed it to Howard Hughes and he said, 'You're a genius.'"

What's more: Hedy Lamarr left school at fifteen years old to become an actress, thus the star lacked any formal training in engineering or chemistry. Despite that, Lamarr avidly innovated throughout the second World War to great national successes.

To circumvent the "jamming" of radio signals by Nazi U-Boats, Lamarr designed an un-hackable radio signal that could be exchanged between ship and torpedo. The notion depended on "frequency hopping"— the jumping of a signal between multiple frequencies. Lamarr's groundbreaking innovation led to the development of spread spectrum, which makes Bluetooth technology possible today.

Learn more about Lamarr's brilliant mind here.  


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