Actress and inventor Hedy Lamarr honored in Google doodle

Austrian-born actor Hedy Lamarr reclining on a crescent moon in front of a starry night-time backdrop in a promotional portrait from the 1944 film "The Heavenly Body." (Clarence Sinclair Bull/Hulton Archive/Getty)

If you used Wi-Fi to connect to the Internet today, you owe a bit of gratitude to Hedy Lamarr.

Monday's Google doodle celebrated what would have been the 101st birthday of Hedy Lamarr, the Austrian-born actress and inventor who co-created a frequency hopping system that served as a basis for modern technology like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS.

The Google doodle features an animated version of Lamarr, switching back and forth between her roles as an elegant Hollywood actress and a studious, determined inventor.



Born Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler, Lamarr made a name for herself as an actress at 18 when she was featured in the German 1933 film Ecstasy which featured her in a controversial lovemaking scene. That same year, Lamarr married Friedrich Mandl, a wealthy Austrian arms merchant. Lamarr fled the marriage and was discovered and hired by Louis B. Mayer, co-founder of the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer movie studios in Hollywood, according to IMDb.

Lamarr began her American film career with MGM in 1938 in the film Algiers and went on to appear in 18 films with actors like Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy throughout the 1940s. But when World War II broke out, Lamarr was inspired to contribute to the effort, co-creating a frequency-hopping system, the Secret Communication System, with her neighbor, composer George Antheil, according to Biography.com. The two discussed how radio-controlled torpedoes could be easily jammed by interference at the source of the control signal, so they came up with the idea of using a piano roll to change the signal sent to a torpedo.

Antheil and Lamarr were granted with a patent for their idea in 1942. although it wouldn't first be implemented until 1962 in the midst of a naval blockade during the Cuban Missile Crisis, according to Scientific American. Their idea would serve as a basis for spread-spectrum communication technology, like Wi-Fi, GPS and Bluetooth technology,

Lamarr passed away in 2000, but is still remembered as one of the biggest stars of Hollywood's Golden Age, and as an inventor whose love of science helped shape modern communication and technology as we know it.

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