The Hollywood Star Who Helped Invent Wi-Fi

A remarkable life, a remarkable invention

By Google Arts & Culture

Who do you suppose laid the groundwork for Wi-Fi?

The CIA? Or the KBG, perhaps? What about the “most beautiful woman in the world” who happened to be a certifiable Hollywood starlet?

Hedy Lamarr, Eliot Elisofon, 1946, From the collection of: LIFE Photo Collection
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In between starring in biblical motion picture films, Lamarr and her Hollywood neighbor, George Antheil, would tinker with radio waves in an attempt to aid the ongoing war effort.

Fashions-Dresses-Evening Lamarr, Hedy, Alfred Eisenstaedt, 1938, From the collection of: LIFE Photo Collection
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One evening in the early 1940s, the pair discovered a remarkable technique called “frequency hopping.” Their invention would allow allied torpedoes to strike their targets without being thwarted by radio jamming, which obviously attracted a great deal of interest from the US Navy.

Frequency hopping played a significant role in WWII and was eventually used to develop Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and GPS. American actress Hedy Lamarr may not have literally invented WiFi - that honor goes to Australian boffin John O'Sullivan - but she did discover a pretty important precursor.

pat2292387 - Hedy Lamarr - drawing only, From the collection of: National Women's Hall of Fame
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Yet despite her incredible contribution to society, Lamarr’s exceptional intellect only became widely known with a 2017 documentary entitled Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story.

“The brains of people are more interesting than the looks...” she knowingly proclaims during the film.

1940, From the collection of: LIFE Photo Collection
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Learn more about Hedy Lamarr with the National Women's Hall of Fame.

Explore more stories of invention and discovery.

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