Wednesday Geek Woman: Hedy Lamarr, inventor

This is a guest post by doubleshiny. doubleshiny is an education professional and TV geek writing at endofshow.com.

Although known chiefly as an actress, Hedy Lamarr was a keen inventor and mathematician who was interested in military technology. Her neighbour was the composer George Antheil who was experimenting with automated musical instruments such as player pianos. Together they developed a system based on the perforations on player piano rolls, where a signal could switch between multiple frequencies to make radio controlled object such as torpedoes harder for the enemy to jam or detect. The patent was applied for in 1941 and was designed to assist the US military as a secret communication system, but it wasn’t put into use until the Cuba blockade of 1962.

I find Hedy Lamarr to be an extraordinary woman whose work in the field was overwhelmingly altruistic. She first came upon the problem of jamming of radio-controlled torpedoes in a meeting which her controlling husband made her attend so that he knew where she was. She not only helped solve this problem, but solved her own by drugging the husband and running away to Paris with all her jewellery, or disguising herself as a maid before fleeing, depending on which story you believe.

Wikipedia: Hedy Lamarr

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