Fans of old movies know Hedy Lamarr, star of 1930s and 40s American films, such as Ziegfield Girl, and Samson and Delilah. She was dubbed “the most beautiful woman in the world,” and worked with such Hollywood greats as Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy, Jimmy Stewart, Lana Turner, Judy Garland, Louis B. Mayer, and Cecil B. DeMille.
Ah, but you know there’s more, right? Apparently, Lamarr was one smart cookie, and loved to tinker. Did you know that, during World War II, she co-invented a frequency-hopping torpedo guidance system? It was designed to evade the enemy’s jamming devices. She received the patent for it in 1942. If you think about it, it’s a precursor to what we now call spread-spectrum communication technology, used in wifi and cell phones.
So how did this come about, and why didn’t the U.S. Navy jump on it when she offered to give it to them during the war? Check out the following video clip (under 9 minutes) for the fascinating story:
My thanks to Joanie, a dear friend of my mom’s, for sending this along. Hi, Joanie! *waves*
So what do you all think: was the device not taken seriously because one of its inventors was a beautiful, wildly successful actress, or the idea itself seemed too weird? What about today’s Hollywood celebrities: do they struggle to “cross over” in the public sector, and be taken seriously in other endeavors? I’d love to hear from you!
For anyone who’s interested, The Atlantic website has an index of links to more celebrity patents. Check it out here: Celebrity Invention. My fave? That’s a tough one: I’m torn between Lawrence Welk’s accordion ashtray and Bill Nye’s ballet slipper. LOL!
Until next time…keep tinkering!