The ‘World’s Most Beautiful Inventor’
By Tom Morrow
She was a popular Hollywood and international film star, who not only was one of the great beauties on screen, but became an important inventor who greatly aided the Allied effort during World War II – a communications system still in use today.
Born Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler to a Jewish family on Nov. 9, 1914, the world would come to know her as: Hedy Lamarr.
In 1933, Lamarr married her first of six husbands, Max Mandl, a wealthy Austrian military arms merchant, who was very controlling. She often would accompany Mandl to business meetings where he conferred with scientists involved in military technology. These conferences became her introduction to the field of applied science which nurtured her talent in the scientific field. Mandl, himself half-Jewish, often entertained Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini at dinner parties, as well as selling arms and munitions to them.
After escaping the tyrannical Mandl in 1937, Lamarr fled to Paris where she met MGM’s Louis B. Mayer. The Hollywood mogul hired her, insisting she change her name to “Hedy Lamarr.” Upon arriving in Hollywood in 1938, Mayer promoted her as the “world’s most beautiful woman.”
Lamarr made 18 films from 1940 to 1949. After leaving MGM in 1945, she enjoyed her biggest success as Delilah in Cecil B. DeMille’s “Samson and Delilah,” with Victor Mature — the highest-grossing film of 1949.
At the beginning of the World War II, Lamarr helped the U.S. war effort by selling War Bonds, but also by using her scientific knowledge. Lamarr began developing the invention for which she would become famous.
Lamarr co-invented the technology for “Spread Spectrum” and “Frequency Hopping” communications with composer/pianist George Antheil. The new technology became important to America’s military during the War because it was used in controlling torpedoes. Today, those inventions have been incorporated into the modern Wi-Fi, CDMA and Bluetooth technology.
Between films, Lamarr usually kept her technical mind busy by inventing to relieve her boredom. Among her earliest inventions were an improved traffic signal and a carbonated beverage. The beverage was not successful — she claimed it tasted like Alka-Seltzer. The U.S. Navy used the WWII version of frequency hopping in 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Her later years were not happy ones. In 1966, she was arrested for shoplifting in Los Angeles. The charges were eventually dropped. In 1991, she was arrested on the same charge in Florida, this time for $21.48 worth of laxatives and eye drops. Both charges were dropped upon her promise not to repeat the offenses.
In 1997, Lamarr and Antheil received recognition for their invention by the Electronic Frontier Foundation Pioneer Award and the Gnass Spirit of Achievement Bronze Award, which are given to individuals whose creative lifetime achievements in the arts, sciences, business, or invention fields have significantly contributed to society. Her technical contributions have been featured on the Science Channel and Discovery Channel. In 2014, Lamarr and Antheil were inducted into the National Inventor’s Hall of Fame. For her movie contributions, Lamarr has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
At age 85, Lamarr died in Casselberry, Fla., on Jan. 19, 2000. In accordance with her last wishes, her son, Anthony Loder, took her ashes to Austria and spread them in the Vienna Woods. In 2014, she was given an honorary grave in Vienna’s Central Cemetery.
SCAG SEZ — I miss those really good ol’ days when politicians didn’t expect us to believe the crap they throw at us. – Cecil Scaglione, Mature Life Features.