Hedy Lamarr, 1914-2000

  • Hedy-Lamarr-WWP

Woman Category: Business & Entrepreneurship, Science & Technology, and Theater & CinemaWoman Tags: Actress and Inventor

  • HerStory

    Film actress during Hollywood’s “Golden Age”, inventor, and the co-intervenor of the technology that will be the basis of modern days wireless communication systems.

    Born as Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler in Vienna, Austria-Hungary, the only child to parents of Jewish descent. Her mother converted to Catholicism, and Lamarr was raised as Christian. Her interest in technology started early on in her life. At age 5, she dismantled and reassembled her music box to understand how it works. Her interest in acting also developed from a young age, fascinated by theater and film, she took an acting class, and at 16 years old, she skipped school to work as a script girl at a film production company. Not long after, she got a role as an extra in a film, and at 17 landed her first speaking role.
    Afterward, she moved to Berlin, and at 18, she was given the lead role in the controversial and sexually charged film, “Ecstasy”, performing in the nude in some scenes as well as during an orgasm. That same year, Lamarr married Friedrich Mandl – a 33 years old wealthy arms merchant. Mandl was a controlling husband who prevented Lamarr from pursuing her acting career, and after a few years, she fled home, escaping on a bike in the middle of the night.
    At 23, Lamarr moved to London, where she met Louis B. Mayer of MGM. She turned down an offer of $125 a week, but booked a ticket to the same ship to America as he did, and managed to secure an offer of a $500 a week. Under the name Hedy Lamarr, Mayer promoted her as the “world’s most beautiful woman”, and in 1938, after the release of the movie “Algiers”, she became a worldwide sensation. Afterward, Lamarr was usually typecast in the roles of the glamorous seductress.
    In 1950, Lamarr played the lead in the award-winning film “Samson and Delilah”, although she got critical acclaim for this role, her film career began to decline. In the following years, the movies she appeared in were failing at the box offices, and at the age of 44, she acted for the last time as her 30th movie was filmed.
    In addition to her prosperous acting career, Lamarr was a self-taught inventor and had numerous inventions, including an upgraded traffic stoplight and a water-dissolve tablet that creates a soda beverage. During WW2, Lamarr and the composer George Antheil invented a technology for Secret Communications System, changing radio frequencies that prevent the enemies from decoding messages. Although it was granted by the US Patent and Trademark Office, it wasn’t implemented until 1962, when an updated version was designed. That invention is actually the basis of present days wireless communications, such as WiFi, GPS, and Bluetooth. Only in 1997, Lamarr was recognized for this invention, and became the first woman to receive the BULBIE™ Gnass Spirit of Achievement Award – “The Oscars of inventing.”

    “The brains of people are more interesting than the looks I think…”

    “The brains of people are more interesting than the looks I think…”


    More Interesting Anecdotes:

    • She won a beauty contest in Vienna when she was 12 years old.
    • She chose the stage name “Lamarr” as an homage to the silent film star Barbara La Marr.
    • She married and divorced six times, and had 3 children, one of them adopted.
    • Several films were made about her life story. A series starring the Wonder Woman, Gal Gadot, will be released in 2020.
    • The Hedy Lamarr Memorial is located in her honorary grave in Vienna Central Cemetery (her ashes were spread in Austria’s Vienna Woods).
    • During WW2, She wanted to join the National Inventors Council but was requested to support via fundraising.
  • More About Her Legacy
    Creations By and About Her:

    * DVDs of movies she played in
    * Books about her


    * BULBIE™ Gnass Spirit of Achievement Award
    * Electronic Frontier Foundation Pioneer Award
    * Inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame
    * A star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

  • Watch and Learn More

  • One of Her Landmarks

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  • Woman Tags: Actress, Inventor

    The brilliant mind of Hollywood legend Hedy Lamarr

    The actress Hedy Lamarr captivated audiences during the 1930s and 1940s in films like "Algiers" and "Ziegfeld Girl," and became known as an iconic beauty. "Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story," a new documentary, showcases her overlooked achievements in technology, including her work on an invention that helped form the basis for Wi-Fi. NewsHour Weekend's Megan Thompson spoke to Alexandra Dean, director of the film, which airs May 18 on American Masters.

  • Lamarr in 1944. Photo credit - Wikipedia.