I recently watched this documentary on Netflix about the glamorous actress Hedy Lamarr who was not only the most beautiful actress of her day, but also a brilliant inventor whose early discoveries resulted in the WiFi and Bluetooth systems that we use today. Along with her colleague George Antheil, she came up with the idea of a “frequency hopping mechanism” to control armed torpedoes. The two filed for a patent, and the information from the patent was provided to the US Navy who then gave it to a contractor to bring to fruition. Although she was not recognized for this invention until 1997, her ideas form the basis of much of the communication systems we use today.
I find her story a tragic one – despite her great beauty she was frustrated in her attempts to have an intellectually satisfying life. If she was born in today’s world, 100 years later, her life would have been much different. We often forget to appreciate the opportunities that women have today that would have been unheard of a century ago, or even 50 years ago.
Finding a date of birth for a film star of the early twentieth century is not easy. Before Wikipedia, the biographies of celebrities were fabricated, often with assumed names and falsified birth dates. Ms. Lamarr claimed she was born in 1915, but most biographies give 1914 as the year of birth. Some, including the Encyclopedia Brittanica, give 1913 as the birth year. Note: astro.com gives a birth time of 7:30 pm but it is sourced “from memory” and I have not utilized this time in my analysis as memory is not always reliable.