Hollywood icon Hedy Lamarr rose to fame during Mgm's 'Golden Age' and won roles for her great beauty and on-screen presence, but it seems the actress was more than just a pretty face.
In his new book, 'Hedy's Folly, The Life and Breakthrough Inventions of Hedy Lamarr, the Most Beautiful Woman in the World', Richard Rhodes reveals how Lamarr also co-invented spread spectrum communications and frequency hopping - necessary for modern day wireless communication. The actress is perhaps best known for her controversial performance in the 1933 Czech movie 'Ecstacy', in which she raised eyebrows for appearing nude and simulating an orgasm, but Hedy cultivated another interest away from the cameras. During an interview on Npr's 'All Things Considered', author Rhodes described the actress as the type of person who, "was constantly looking at the world and wondering how can that be fixed, how can that be improved". Her marriage to an Austrian arms dealer meant she would often sit at dinner parties listening to talk of weapons, and with her great interest in science, she began to research technologies. Rhodes says after escaping her marriage, Lamarr gained a patent for a radio signal which would "hop around from radio frequency to radio frequency", meaning a torpedo, for example, could be guided without fear of having its signal jammed. She and a partner offered the idea to the U.S. Navy free of charge, but they "basically threw it into a file", says Rhodes. Later, the idea of frequency hopping was rediscovered, but the actress's patent had already expired.
Lamarr died in Florida from natural causes on January 19, 2000, aged 86. A huge star in the 40's and 50's, she once had a lucrative seven-year $3,000 a week contract with Mgm.