November 9, 2015
Google Doodle Celebrates Hedy Lamarr On Her 101st Birthday: Actress By Day, Inventor By Night

Hedy Lamarr lives a double life: a Hollywood actress by day, a scientist by night. Today, Google celebrates the fascinating life of Hedy Lamarr. Today would have been Lamarr's 101st birthday.

Jennifer Hom, who created the animation art in honor of Hedy Lamarr, was more than thrilled to tell Lamarr's story for Google Doodle.

"It's no wonder, then, that Lamarr has kind of a mythical status at Google, and I was pretty excited at the chance to tell her story in Doodle form,"

"This took some tinkering of my own—after deciding on the movie format as a nod to her Hollywood career, I dug through old fashion illustrations and movie posters to try to capture the look and feel of the 1940s."

Lamarr was often referred to as "the most beautiful woman in the world" back in her hey-day as an actress. As a Hollywood actress, Heidi was successful, not to mention that she starred opposite the likes of Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy and Jimmy Stewart. Heidi, however, was often bored and disillusioned by the glitz and glamour of Hollywood life. To offset the dullness, Heidi Lamarr spend her nights tinkering and poring over mathematical formulas and diagrams. This passion for science would later on help her come up with a communications system that now forms the basis of the wireless technologies we use today such as WiFi, Bluetooth, and GPS.

As previously reported on the Inquisitr, Hedy Lamarr's wish to help in the war effort during the second World War led her to come up with the groundbreaking technology. Her extensive knowledge of radio signals prompted her to create the "spread-spectrum radio," a frequency-hopping system that could prevent Nazis from blocking signals from radio-guided torpedoes launched by the Allies. Hedy, along with neighbor and composer George Antheil, based the system on the 88 piano keys to make it difficult for enemies to detect the radio signals.

Richard Rhodes, a Pulitzer-winning author who wrote Hedy's Folly: The Life and Breakthrough Inventions of Hedy Lamarr, The Most Beautiful Woman in the World, described Hedy's thought processes that led her to come up with the system.
"She understood that the problem with radio signals was that they could be jammed. But if you could make the signal hop around more or less randomly from radio frequency to radio frequency, then the person at the other end trying to jam the signal won't know where it is.

If they try to jam one particular frequency, it might hit that frequency on one of its hops, but it would only be there for a fraction of a second."

Their "Secret Communication System" received a patent in 1942. Unfortunately, the Navy ditched the idea, partly due to the limitations in technology at the time, according to CNN.

But after World War II, the Navy became interested in building a "sonobuoy," a device that uses sonar to detect signals from submarines and thereafter transmit the signal to a plane above the water. To avoid signal jams during transmission, the Navy decided to make use of Hedy Lamarr's "spread-spectrum radio."

"They resuscitated the idea of frequency-hopping and built it into the sonobuoy. And after that, the whole system just spread like wildfire," Rhodes says.

In Heddy's Folly, Rhodes tells the story of how Lamarr, born Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler in Austria, was already fascinated by science even at a very young age. Given how women were often discouraged to embark on a scientific career at the time, Hedy decided to pursue acting instead. Lamarr began to work as a teen actress in Europe, starring in the controversial and scandalous Czech film Ecstase. Scandalous how? For one, that film had a scene focusing on Hedy Lamarr's face as she was having an orgasm.

She came to Hollywood in the late 1930s and change her screen name to Hedy Lamarr. After signing a contract with MGM, Lamarr went on to star in high profile films throughout the 1940s, often landing femme fatale roles. Some of Hedy Lamarr's most notable films include Algiers (1938) with Charles Boyer, I Take This Woman (1940) with Spencer Tracy, Comrade X (1940) with Clark Gable, Come Live With Me (1941) with James Stewart, and Samson and Delilah (1949) with Victor Mature.

Rhodes said that Hedy Lamarr was often cast based on her beauty, and were often given few lines. Lamarr often found the work dull and boring as a result.

"Hedy didn't drink. She didn't like to party. Her idea of a good evening was a quiet dinner party with some intelligent friends where they could discuss ideas — which sounds so un-Hollywood, but Hedy had to find something else to do to occupy her time."
Amidst all the developments made in the field of wireless technology today, no one can deny that Hedy Lamarr and George Antheil's contributions laid the groundwork that started the ball rolling. In 2014, Hedy Lamarr and George Antheil were inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

Hats off to Google for using their Google Doodle platform to celebrate the lives of women who made valuable contributions in the field of science and technology.

[Image via Google]