Hedy Lamarr: Actress and Inventor

Most people know Hedy as the beautiful actress who pushed the boundaries on what was allowed in early films. What most people do not know is that she had an interest in science. She also patented the predecessor to today’s Bluetooth technology.

Her idea involved making a radio signal “hop around from radio frequency to radio frequency,” Rhodes said, to interfere with signal jamming. Thus, a torpedo could be radio guided with less fear of having the signal jammed.

She and a partner obtained a patent, then gave it free of charge to the U.S. Navy. Brilliant, yes?

The Navy “basically threw it into the file,” Rhodes said. Later, however, the idea of frequency-hopping was resuscitated by the Navy, and “then the whole system spread like wildfire. The most well-known application today is Bluetooth.”

So why isn’t Hedy Lamarr the Inventor a famous name?

The patent had expired, Rhodes said, plus, during most of the device’s life it was a military secret. By the time it came out, it had gone through many permutations with input from various sources.

Photo by Ben Sutherland

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