Actress Hedy Lamarr was best known for her work in Hollywood during its Golden Age, appearing in films such as The Ziegfeld Girl and Samson and Delilah. But Lamarr also worked with Hollywood composer George Antheil to invent a frequency hopping technique that is now considered an important development in wireless communications.
Born in Austria, Lamarr was once married to a munitions’ manufacturer, which gave her a background in her knowledge of weapons systems, including torpedo guidance systems. Lamarre and Anteil frequency hopping reduced the risk of radio-guided torpedoes being detected or jammed.
Multiple radio frequencies were used to transmit the radio signal, switching frequencies at split-second intervals in a seemingly random fashion that would sound like mere noise to anyone listening. But if both the sender and the receiver of the signal jumped on frequencies at the same time, the signal was clean.
Although Lamarr and Antheil never profited from their invention during their lifetimes, in 1997 the Electronic Frontier Foundation recognized it as an important development in wireless communications. When the patent was issued in 1942, it listed her maiden and married name at the time, Hedy Kiesler Markey.