Influential Women #17: Hedy Lamarr

I’m low-key offended I hadn’t heard of Hedy Lamarr before I saw her name pass when googling influential women for this series. This woman is awesome as hell, combining beauty and brains like it’s no damn big deal. Most people know Lamarr for her work as an American actress and beauty-icon, but – not surprisingly – little is said about her greatly influential work as an inventor after her career as an actress.

“Inventor?” Yes, inventor – and a goddamn good one at that. While starring in several hit films like Ecstasy (which is known as the first film in which a woman appeared naked for longer than just a flash, #shocked), White Cargo and Samson & Delilah, Hedy Lamarr was making name in a field very different from the world of entertainment. She invented a technology which is at the fundament of something we could not live without today – wireless technology.

THAT’S GODDAMN RIGHT. This woman is best known for being naked on film for no more than ten frigging minutes, while she laid the fundaments of goddamn wireless technology. In 1942, she and a friend patented an invention which they called the “Secret Communications System”, but the relevance of the invention wasn’t really acknowledged until the late 60s. People at the time did not realise the broad applicability of it, and as most female inventors at that time, she did not get the recognition she deserved. Now, however, Lamarr’s spread spectrum technology is the fundament of the technological evolution regarding the wireless use of things like fax machines, cell phones, etc.

In the late 90s, Hedy Lamarr finally was acknowledged as one of the most influential inventors in the world. She and her friend received Electronic Frontier Foundation Pioneer Award. She later was the first woman to receive the BULBIE Gnass Spirit of Achievement Award, an award that is often referred to as the Oscar of inventors. Hedy Lamarr passed away in January 2000, but she had then already left a firm legacy behind: not only was she a successful actress and one of the best inventors of her time, but she also crushed one of the most stereotypical standards of society that still live to this day – that one can’t combine beauty with brains.

  • L. Parole
For those of you who’d like to read up on Hedy Lamarr, I based this post on Lamarr’s official website, the Biography.com article about her, a Dutch article on a history site and an article on a website about women inventors.
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