3. Women precursors in technology: Hedy Lamarr

June 7, 2016 | by Helena Hernandez

In developers, Internet of Things, internet

Hedy Lamarr was born in 1914 in Vienna, Austria-Hungary.

Hedy Lamarr surprised the whole world, she was considered the most beautiful woman in movie history, and she rejected the leading role in Casablanca to open a wide range of possibilities in the technology world.

A supermodel and actress developed the forerunner technology behind Wi-Fi

I found this amazing woman, that achieved amazing things against all societal challenges and stereotypes. I just can’t leave this woman out of this blog post series! I am talking about Hedwing Eva Maria Kiesler best known as Hedy Lamarr.

Hedy Lamarr was born in Vienna in November of 1914. Since childhood, all their teachers considered her to be intellectually gifted. Hedy Lamarr was so intelligent that she started her engineering studies at the age of 16. But, three years later, she quit to become an actress. In 1933, Lamarr was already famous worldwide because of her appearance in Ecstasy. In this film, she had a nude scene, one of the first in cinema history.

After watching Ecstasy, Friedrich Mandl, an armament industry magnate during World War II, arranged with Hedy Lamarr’s parents to marry her. That year, Hedy got married against her will. She later described this marriage as a stage of genuine slavery. Why? Once they got married, Friedich tried to destroy all copies of Ecstasy, and he had really jealous and unexplainable behaviors towards Hedy.

Hedy Lamarr was locked in her home as if it was prison. She also had to always be with Friedich in all places at all times. Of course, she was forced to leave her emerging career as an actress. Hedy felt stalked by her own husband.

But, that did not stopped her. Hedy Lamarr decided to continue her engineering career and studies.  She used her bright mind to obtain from Friedich’s providers and clients the basics of the armament technology.

Hedy Lamarr was a great inventor in the telecomminocations field. The principles of their work are now incorporated into modern Wi-Fi.

She strategically ran away from Friedich, there are two versions of how Hady scape. The first one is that they went our for dinner at a restaurant in Paris and Hery's strategy was to sit next to the window. While they were having dinner, Hery opened the window and jumped. A car inmediately picked her up. The second version is that, while Friedich was on a business trip, Hery drugged one of the maids, took the maid's uniform and ran away tricking the guards that were in charge of her. She made her way to Paris, and then to London without leaving any trace.

No matter the way she scape,  Hery was finally free to fulfill her dream of having a solid artistic career, and at the same time develop her passion and wide knowledge about technology.

She met the composer George Antheil, and he helped her develop a radio-controlled torpedo system. Hedy Lamarr accomplished this by studding and taking full advantage of the “spread spectrum”. She also developed great technological developments in telecommunications. Her inventions and ideas were used by USA during the missile war crisis with Cuba, and this technology was kept as a secret for a long time. Hedy Lamarr’s inventions later helped to create today’s Wi-Fi, GPS systems, and mobile phones.

This is a story that totally broke down many stereotypes: social, gender, technological, proffessional and cultural. This is also a story against patriarchy. Hedy overcame the way she was repressed and she became a huge Hollywood star and a technological innovator who revolutionized the world.