Yesterday was the 101st birthday of Hedy Lamarr, and Google celebrated this by creating an awesome doodle that celebrates her achievements.
If you’re a classic film fan or buff, you know Hedy Lamarr for her career in classic Hollywood films, such as I Take This Woman with Spencer Tracy or Comrade X with Clark Gable.
But there’s another facet about Lamarr that wasn’t well known until the late 1990s: her love of science.
In fact, when she wasn’t working in front of the camera, Lamarr was busy working on inventions, such as an improved traffic signal and a carbonated drink from a tablet you drop in water, the latter of which she later admitted tasted awful.
But one of Lamarr’s most important inventions emerged from her desire to help with WWII efforts, beyond using her fame to sell war bonds. From her first marriage to an arms merchant, Lamarr learned about radio-controlled torpedoes and their major flaw in having their frequencies easily jammed. In partnership with her friend, neighbor, and composer, George Antheil, she created a frequency-hopping system based on the piano that she patented in 1942.
However, despite the sheer usefulness of this invention, the US Navy opposed it and refused to even utilize it in the war effort. When US military ships finally got around to using Lamarr’s invention in the early 1960s, her patent on it had already expired, denying her any financial compensation and recognition from the US Military.
Such recognition for Lamarr and Antheil for their creation of the frequency-hopping system didn’t come until 1997, when Lamarr was awarded the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Pioneer Award for said invention. Thanks to Lamarr’s invention, GPS, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi are available and accessible in our lives today.
As a woman who was initially erased from vital STEM history, it is important that we celebrate the life and work of Hedy Lamarr not only because of how her inventions impact our lives today, but also to inspire girls and women that despite what we have been taught, STEM is not a male-only field and, in fact, would not have gotten as far as it has today without the women it often forgets.
If you want to learn a bit more about Hedy Lamrr than what I have explained, or to see Google’s Doodle for her, please visit The Mary Sue article: Google Celebrates the 101st Birthday of Hedy Lamarr, Hollywood Legend and Badass Inventor.