Hello, my name is Hedy Lamarr. You might recognize me from my old movies, such as Samson and Delilah, Algiers, Bombshell, and the controversial Ecstasy. I am not just a Hollywood actress, I am also an inventor. I have been interested in machines since I was five years old. I would take apart music boxes just to see how they work and to put them back together. I was born Hedwig Eva Kiesler on November 14, 1914 in Vienna, Austria, during World War I. My father was a bank director but also very interested in industrialization and technology. He would take me on long walks to talk about different machines, like the printing press or street cars. My mother was a concert pianist. She put me in piano classes and ballet classes.
When I was 16, film director Max Reinhardt discovered me. He became my acting teacher. I studied acting with Mr. Reinhardt in Berlin. I got my first small acting job in 1930, working on a film called Money on the Street. Only two years later, I gained widespread infamy through my role in a controversial film called Ecstasy. In 1933, when I was 19, I married a man named Fritz Mandl. He was 36. I soon found out he was a Natzi. That marriage did not work out well because I was born Jewish. One day, Fritz had a dinner party. I got some tea and gave it to my maid. But what she did not know was that I had put sleeping powder in it. When she fell asleep I took her clothes and rode away on her bicycle. I needed to get to the docks to get on a boat to go to london. Then when I was 22, after a couple of years in London, I moved to America after MGM studios recruited me as an actress.
In America, the director would have all the actors come very early in the morning and work until very late at night. Most of my colleagues would go home and sleep. But I would not. I would go home to work on my inventions. I was also dating Howard Hughes, the famous airplane manufacturer, who would let me use some of his equipment. One of my inventions was a small cube that would turn water into coca-cola. I made it so that soldiers could still have Coke. Unfortunately, it did not work because the mineral content of water differed from region to region.. In some areas, cubes would fizz on the bottom as intended, but in others it
would fizz on the top or in the middle. At the same time, Howard Hughes was trying to make a very fast plane that could be used in the military as World War II had broken out. He let me design one. I bought a book about fish and another book about birds. I figured out which fish was the fastest and which bird was the fastest. I then designed the plane with some of the body features of each animal. My plane wasn’t produced, but my design was used to improve the aerodynamics of military planes.
The relationship did not work between Howard and me.
I was later introduced to Goerge Antheil at a dinner party. George was a well-known composer. Later that same night, I wrote my phone number on George’s car window with lipstick to make sure that he would call me. I thought that he would be able to help me with an invention I was working on that would help defeat the Nazis in the war. Soon, George and I came up with an idea for coding torpedo signals to prevent the frequency jamming that the enemy used against incoming torpedoes. We created signal hopping technology. George and I called it the “secret communication system.” I patented the system and tried to get the military to use it to better defend against the German submarines that at this point in the war were sinking a lot of allied navy and shipping boats. The military rejected it. They told me that I should go do something useful and sell war bonds. However, many years later, during the Cuban missile crisis, the military used my frequency hopping device in every boat involved in the Cuban Blockade to maintain secure communications. My contributions were not limited to important military communications technology. Some of my ideas are used in our everyday communications technology that help define today’s world, such as GPS, bluetooth, and wifi.
Not only was I a famous movie star an considered the world’s most beautiful woman, but I also contributed to the technologies that have so dramatically impacted the modern world.