TNB Night Owl – Hedy Lamarr

Hedy Lamarr, publicity photo

Born Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler in Austria, 1914, Hedy Lamarr – billed as “the most beautiful woman in film” began acting in German films in 1931 and caught the attention of MGM after appearing in 1932’s “Extase”. She moved to Hollywood and changed her name to Lamarr, seeking something both more exotic and more American than Kiesler.

She was among the nation’s most prominent stars when we entered World War II against Germany. Despite her birth nation, she showed her patriotism for the United States by posing for pin-ups and giving interviews to military magazines, as requested by people in charge of the armed forces.

In this, she was hardly alone; the Army weekly enlisted paper Yank, for example, had a pin-up photo on the back page of every issue, and strove to remind people of who were cheering them on from the home front. Hedy was unusual primarily because she is the one who originally approached the military about helping the home effort, rather than the other way around… and she was absolutely unique in her initial offer.

Modern offers of political support from beautiful women are often vulgar. In 1990, Italian politician and former porn star Cicciolina offered to have sex with Saddam Hussein if he would release foreign hostages. Since then, other actresses and musicians have offered to use their physical attractiveness to promote causes and politicians. Lamarr, however, approached the military not to offer her body, but her mind.

Specifically, her invention.

Hedy Lamarr and her friend, composer George Antheil, developed a device which she thought people might find useful. She patented it and then offered it to the US military as a way to help keep their missile guidance safe from interference. It was a “Secret Communication System” that used directed frequency modulation to shift transmission bands between two points.

There was just one tiny issue… the technology didn’t exist to make it work. The devices involved were too bulky to properly fit on a missile. Still, the idea was there, and she did her part as a pretty face during the war.

It was only after the development of the transistor that Lamarr’s work came into its own. Electronics researchers looking through patents discovered her creation, and turned it into reality. They then started expanding upon it. The ideas of this woman who became an actress at seventeen and never went to college formed the basis for what would eventually become wi-fi, bluetooth and GPS.

A beautiful mind, indeed.

Question of the night: Who is a woman who inspired you, as a youth?

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About AlienMotives 1991 Articles
Ex-Navy Reactor Operator turned bookseller. Father of an amazing girl and husband to an amazing wife. Tired of willful political blindness, but never tired of politics. Hopeful for the future.