You read that right, folks. The next time you use your cell phone, give a tip of the hat to silver screen legend Hedy Lamarr. Famous for her beauty, as well as for baring all in the film Ecstasy, Hedy was so much more than a pretty face. The Hollywood party scene held no appeal for the exotic Austrian who came to America to escape an unhappy marriage to a Nazi arms dealer. It seems that Hedy did much more than just sit at the dinner table and look pretty–she listened and learned a great deal about munitions technology.
When she arrived in Hollywood, she made the acquaintance of avant-garde composer George Antheil. Their collaborations on the piano experimenting with frequencies eventually led to the invention of spread spectrum technology. This is the technology that cell phones, GPS, and many other modern-day gadgets are based on. During World War II, Hedy’s invention contributed to the U.S. war effort in the form of a joint patent for a jam-proof radio guidance system for torpedoes.
This quirky, uniquely American story is brilliantly told by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Rhodes. <a href=”http://www.npr.org/2011/11/27/142664182/most-beautiful-woman-by-day-inventor-by-night”>Great interview with the author on NPR</a>.