As most of your probably know, today’s the International Women’s Day and we wanted to celebrate it properly with one of our favourite female inventors of all time – Hedy Lamarr.
Now, we know what some of you will say: “Inventor? Wait, wasn’t she the famous Hollywood actress of the 1930s and 1940s?” She sure was, but Austrian-born Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler was definitely not just another pretty face on the silver screen. Lamarr is actually the one who made it possible for us to have and use Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and other wireless networks on a daily basis.
Lamarr and Her Spread-spectrum Technology Paved the Way for Wi-Fi
Back in 1942, Hedy and composer George Antheil patented their “Secret Communication System”, originally developed to help the US Navy remotely control radio-guided torpedoes during the war. The system was based on frequency hopping, which involved switching radio frequencies rapidly and at the same time to prevent enemies from decoding secret messages. While the invention was granted US Patent No. 2,292,387 in 1942, the military never used it in World War II.
However, the patent received attention once more in the late 1950s, and was later on used not only in secret military communications (the Cuban Missile Crisis), but also during the development of CDMA (Code division multiple access). Lamarr and Antheil’s invention made a huge impact on the world of technology and paved the way for mobile phones, fax machines, and wireless technologies.
Like other women inventors, Lamarr received little to no recognition for her ideas at the time, but in 1997 both she and George Anthiel received the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) Pioneer Award. Lamarr also became the first female recipient of the BULBIE Gnass Spirit of Achievement Award, which is also referred to as “The Oscar of Inventing.”